With this "Getting to Know the Future" series, we've emphasized important, yet overlooked prospects throughout the White Sox' organization. In fact, we've even been out ahead of the curve on prospects rising through the team's ranks in some instances, as many of the guys we've written about have since been promoted.
But with infielder Micah Johnson, probably the fastest rising prospect the White Sox have, we just can't ignore him any longer.
To be clear, we have discussed Johnson on GSB! here & there …
- Recent Promotions Could Signal Impending Rebuild
- White Sox Send Six to the Arizona Fall League
- IU Hoosiers Galore!
But we figure that now is a good time to really delve into the 22 year-old, 5'11 Indianapolis native.
Drafted in the 9th round of the 2012 draft out of IU, Johnson has just always been what he is: a spark plug extraordinaire. After great freshmen and sophomore seasons, despite an elbow injury in the latter, the Sox took a shot on him in the amateur draft.
In rookie ball in 2012, Johnson got off to a solid start. He played 69 games, hitting .273 with 19 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases. His 43 walks in that time was also very impressive, though 74 strike outs were definitely too many.
And over the offseason something must have clicked.
Starting 2013 in low-A ball with the Kannapolis Intimidators, Johnson absolutely tore up the competition. He hit .342 with 34 XBH's and 61 SB's … in just 77 games. His strikeouts did decrease at least a little bit from 1.072 per game to 0.87 per game. And with 40 walks, there really wasn't a drop off in any regard. He was just better than his competition.
He then got promoted to high-A ball where he hit .275 with 12 XBH's and 22 SB's. His OPS did drop from .952 at low-A ball to .670, though. But nobody expected him to keep up the pace we saw from him at Kannapolis, so at least the fact that he was fanning much less (27 K's in 49 games) and fielding the ball better (which we'll discuss soon) was enough to convince Buddy Bell and the other developmental experts with the team that he was ready for a promotion to AA.
There, for what it is worth, he went 3-for-5 in his first game and did not make an error on five defensive chances at second base. Despite his high potential offensively as a leadoff man of the future, his defense is probably what should garner the most talk at this point in his career.
There's just no way around it: he's not good in the field.
It's hard to say who has been the MLB's worst fielder this year, but Pedro Alvarez is definitely a candidate. He has commited 25 errors playing third base for the Pirates in 121 games … good for a .934 fielding percentage.
Micah Johnson's career fielding percentage is .952, and is pretty representative of his season this year. At that rate, he'd be near the bottom of the MLB. In fact by my count, there's only be four guys in the entire game this year with a worse mark: Pedro Alvarez (.934), Pablo Sandoval (.935), Ryan Zimmerman (.939), and Chris Johnson (.944) … all third basemen.
The worst mark among full-time second basemen is Philadelphia's Chase Utley at .970.
In order for a speedster to be a designated hitter, Johnson would have to put up numbers similar to what we saw from him at Kannapolis. Unless that's the case, he's going to have to figure this whole defense thing out.
He'd only be worse at 3B or SS, so his options are probably 2B or the outfield, most likely CF given his off-the-charts speed. Luckily that may work, with Trayce Thompson the only outfielder in the organization we can dream of (at this point) seeing one day roaming CF at U.S. Cellular Field.
It's really too tough to tell at this point what improvements to his defense likely can or cannot take place. There just isn't much tape on him out there. What we can tell you though is that Johnson is extremely athletic so in the right hands, I don't see why he can't at the very least become a serviceable second baseman. It just may take a little more time and effort than it does for most on that side of the ball.
If Micah can continue to stay patient at the plate and figure out the better pitchers of the game's minor league ranks, it'll be near impossible for the Sox not to give him a shot in 2015 if not next season.
In this piece by our friend Scott Merkin, it reads "according to White Sox director of player development Nick Capra, Johnson could be a big league contributor by 2015."
I'm not totally sure if that means he should be ready by the beginning of 2015 at the latest or if the 2015 season is when you can expect to see him first, but I'd assume it means the latter. If that is the case, I'm not totally sure why he'd be promoted to AA now. In my opinion, the promotion means the team wants him to be accustomed to the higher level of play from the get-go next year so he can excel there next year and push for a spot on the major league squad.
But between his next month playing for the Birmingham Barons and the weeks after that he's with the Arizona Fall League, a lot could be learned about the MiLB's leading base stealer, so keep your eyes peeled and don't blink.
All statistics are up-to-date through games on Thursday, August 29, 2013.