The trade of James Shields to the White Sox brings the San Diego Padres a young pitcher named Erik Johnson. The right handed starter from the University of California has been a highly touted prospect for the Sox, but he has yet to make the jump to being a successful major league pitcher. Perhaps his time is now?
The San Diego Padres are clearly in a rebuilding mode of sorts. The ownership can deny it all they want, but the writing is on the wall. In trading Shields the Padres are fully invested into the future and the 2016 season is a loss. A tough pill to swallow for Padres fans, but in reality the team is better off stockpiling young players in a real attempt to build a quality franchise for years to come.
Fernando Tatis Jr. provides the team with a very raw prospect. He is still only 17 and has yet to make his professional debut so it is extremely early to know exactly what kind of player he will be. The young Dominican shortstop has a high ceiling though, and with a family lineage of major league service time he could easily develop.
Erik Johnson gives the Padres something they desperately needed. A young arm that is under team control. Johnson has a decent ceiling and working with Darren Balsley can only help this young man. He has yet to be given the opportunity to pitch every fifth day consistently at the major league level. He should get that chance with the Padres for the remainder of this 2016 season. We will see what this young man has. He could surprise some people.
In this Erik Johnson video below you will see he features a mid 90’s fastball with a hard biting slider. In this start late last season against the Detroit Tigers, Johnson was attacking hitters. He strikes out Miguel Cabrera on a hard-biting 93 MPH fastball on the outside corner. A great pitch and an even better location against the best pure hitter in the game right now. He follows that up by striking out Nick Castellanos on a 85 MPH slider on the outside corner. Castellanos swung over the top on the tight breaking pitch.
Johnson has the ability. You see a ton of weak swings from the Tigers on fastballs from Johnson. His motion is a bit herky-jerky and the ball obviously gets on batters faster than they expect. Johnson uses all sides of the plate and is not afraid to climb the ladder like he did in striking out Ian Kinsler in the video clip. You can obviously see the upside of this young man. It is just a matter of putting it all together.
Johnson continues in this other video clip with the same arsenal of fastball/slider. He has a bit more on his fastball in this start last year against the Minnesota Twins. You see him hitting 95 a couple of times in the video clip. He strikes out Joe Mauer in the first inning with a 95 MPH heater on the inside corner. He still features a power slider that can be devastating on right handed hitters.
The issue right now with Johnson is he needs to get left-handed batters out more consistently. He has a change up, but it is described as a work in progress. Perhaps working with Doug Bochtler and Fernando Rodney will help him improve his production with the pitch. If Johnson can fine tune his change up he will be a solid starter. You heard that here first. This kid has a lot of moxie out on the mound. He struts off the field after an inning and pitches with a chip on his shoulder. He will compete out there for the team.
The 2015 International League Pitcher of the Year was 11-8 last season at triple-A, Charlotte. He maintained a 2.37 ERA and a 1.123 WHIP in his 22 starts. Johnson also struck out 136 batters in his 132 innings pitched. This season in triple-A he is 2-1 in eight starts with a 2.94 ERA. He started on Thursday for the Sox triple-A team and will likely slide into a rotation spot on the Padres staff next week sometime. In his 18 career major league starts, Johnson is 7-6 with a 4.50 ERA. In that time he has shown a propensity to give up the long-ball. Johnson has allowed 19 home runs in his 98 major league innings pitched. His fly ball tendencies should play well at Petco Park as long as he has an adequate defense in the outfield. Johnson represents the future of sorts. he could emerge into a decent mid-rotation starter. It will be at the very least, fun to see his development. As a Padres fan that is what you have to look forward to the rest of the season. Development.