Yesterday the Boston Red Sox promoted left-hander Brian Johnson from Triple-A Pawtucket to the major leagues. He started immediately and picked up a victory in a win over the Toronto Blue Jays, throwing five innings, allowing seven hits and four runs with three walks but fanning six. It wasn’t a great start but it was enough to win the game. What else lies in store?
Johnson was drafted by the Red Sox in the first round in 2012 from the University of Florida. When healthy he has a strong track record of success, with a career minor league ERA of 2.58 with a 399/151 K/BB in 436 innings.
He made one start in the majors last season but spent two months of the season sidelined while dealing with anxiety. He still ranked 11th on the 2017 Boston Red Sox Top 20 prospects list with the following comment:
11) Brian Johnson, LHP, Grade C+: Age 26, posted 3.60 ERA in 95 innings with 74/40 K/BB; 77 innings in Triple-A with 4.09 ERA, 54/36 K/BB; pitched 18 innings at lowest levels warming back up after treatment for anxiety; typical finesse arsenal with fastball at 88-92, mixes in change-up, curve, and slider/cutter; needs to lower walk rate to succeed with this arsenal but has a good track record when healthy. ETA 2017.
He was off to a strong opening with Pawtucket this year, with a 15/4 K/BB in 10.2 innings over two starts, allowing nine hits and two runs.
As noted, Johnson is a soft-tosser, topping out at 89.9 MPH in yesterday’s start. He makes extensive use of his slider and curveball, while tossing the occasional straight-change into the package. He can hit any velocity spot between 70 and 90 MPH and mixes his pitches efficiently, obviously a necessity given his small margins for error with the fastball. His pitchability has been strongly respected since his college days.
Overall, Johnson still profiles as a strike-throwing fourth starter. This clip is from his major league debut last summer but demonstrates the effectiveness of his breaking stuff.