Leadoff, leadoff, leadoff, oh my goodness leadoff man! Sherman Johnson is the definition of what a leadoff man should be with a nearly as many walks in his career as strikeouts, and a career on base percentage nearing .400. It's not the numbers that make this kid shine though. If you just watch him play baseball, you know that there's something special about him.
"I've never played with a guy like [Sherman Johnson]. He's such a natural athlete and it's like baseball is so engraved in his mind that it was just what he was born to do."
A former teammate at Florida State University told us about Johnson this past season when none of us had seen him yet, but when we did, we got a glimpse of what he was talking about.
Johnson had flawless fielding at each position he played, whether it was the corner outfield positions, third base, or second base. He has a big arm for a guy who isn't very tall or wide in stature. Johnson won a gold glove in college at third base, and has shown precision at the minor league level with some tweaks that need to be made. With time, Johnson could be an outstanding utility defenseman.
It sounds simple but it's something minor leaguers usually don't figure out right away, and that's finding the right pitches to swing at, and the right pitches to avoid, and that's something Sherman Johnson has come to recognize. Now obviously, Johnson has a good eye as it shows mostly in his walk count, but something we noticed right away is Johnson's ability to read pitches and how well he does it.
Even with the ability to read pitches well, Johnson still has struggles making good contact with the ball. This is something that coaching will fix, but it may delay his route to the show if it's not an immediate fix. Other than that, he has one other small problem, and it's power. Johnson is five-foot-ten and weighs right around 180 pounds, and he doesn't necessarily bring all of that weight around while swinging the bat. Johnson won't put up big power numbers at any point in his career, but could make up for it with his great presence as a leadoff hitter.
Every good leadoff hitter needs a little bit of speed around the base paths. Well, look no further. Johnson is no Billy Hamilton or Ricky Henderson, but he sure can light up the base paths. He seems to be pretty steady with the league leaders in stolen bases and if he can find the gaps in the outfield, has no problem putting on the after burners to hit second or third for a double or triple.
"I compare him to a Chone Figgins type of player, probably from the earlier part of his career, I really enjoy watching Johnson play." - Midwest League Broadcaster.
Only two seasons in the minors after being drafted in the 14th round of the 2012 draft, Johnson has made strides through the Angels farm system. Jumping right out of the draft and in to Rookie Ball with the Orem Owlz, Johnson had no problem hitting the professional level with ease. Walking more times than he struckout (49 BB/40 K), he reached base on balls every 4.89 plate appearances, something you hardly ever see from someone who comes out of the draft. Along with that, Johnson posted a .427 on base percentage (20 points higher than his slugging percentage).
2013, everyone got to see what Johnson was really like in his first professional season, and he did not disappoint. He had just slight drops in the hitting numbers but still managed to maintain a strong presence as a leadoff hitter in Low-A with the Burlington Bees, before a very late season callup to the High-A Inland Empire 66ers, where he went on to be a big part of their California League Championship run.
EXPECTED IN THE FUTURE:
Taking a look at 2014 for Sherman Johnson, a year in the California League could boost his confidence as a hitter and might be the best thing for Johnson at this point in his career. We expect Johnson to play leadoff man in High-A over 2014, with a possible callup late in the season to Double-A pending what he does and how he improves. The majors are a possibility for Johnson, and we could see him there as early as 2016, but more likely in 2017.
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