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Low Level Prospect Review: Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox

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A commenter in the Questions thread asked about Micah Johnson, a 2B prospect in the White Sox system who is currently leading the minor leagues with 47 stolen bases. Is this production real, and could we see him jump into top prospect lists by the end of the season?

Were you aware that the White Sox had a mascot? I sure wasn't.
Were you aware that the White Sox had a mascot? I sure wasn't.
Jonathan Daniel

We had a commenter ask about what thoughts we had regarding White Sox' 2B prospect Micah Johnson, who is currently leading the minor leagues in stolen bases with 47 in 61 attempts, and thought he would be an interesting profile.

The History

Micah Johnson went undrafted out of high school in 2009, and opted to attend the University of Indiana. He hit .312/.359/.530 with 11 home runs and 6 stolen bases his freshman year, and followed it up with a .335/.402/.474 campaign. His junior year he struggled primarily due to injuries, and missed more than half the season due to elbow surgery. That didn't stop the White Sox from drafting him, taking him in the 9th round of the 2012 draft and signing him to a bonus of $127K.

The White Sox sent Johnson to their Pioneer League affiliate after signing, where he hit .273/.375/.391 with 4 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 69 games played. Given a full season assignment, Johnson has been running crazy in Low-A Kannapolis, hitting .313/.405/.475 with 4 home runs and 47 stolen bases in 61 tries.

He came into the 2013 season essentially unranked by the major publications, as only Baseball America listed him, at #25 in the White Sox system, not exactly known at this point for its' strength of prospects. A full season of this kind of performance, even given the caveats of age versus level, should move him up substantially in their system.

Anticipated Fantasy Value

If the speed is legitimate, which it appears to be, it will definitely be his carrying tool. He has shown decent power already, and the reports I've read point to a player with decent enough bat speed to hold his own at the plate as he moves up. The question with Johnson seems to stem from his future position, as he is considered a poor defender at second base now, and doesn't sound likely to improve to a passable level. There have been reports that he could move to center field given his speed and arm strength, which would definitely help his fantasy value. If he cannot show that he can play a position in the field, I'm not sure I see a big league future for him.

Long Term Opportunity

Johnson will likely need time given the defensive shortcomings that have been reported thus far, especially given that higher draft picks from last year's draft are currently playing both second base (Joey DeMichele) and center field (Courtney Hawkins) at the level above him. As a result, I have a hard time seeing him move ahead of either of those players currently based on their pedigree, and he's going to have to continue to hit and steal bases at a very high level to force the White Sox to move him forward.

Conclusions

I'm a bit concerned that Johnson could be one of those prospects we hear about putting up a ridiculous amount of stolen bases in a season in the lower minor leagues, and then failing to do much else as he moves up. The lack of a bonafide position for him to play on defense currently doesn't help with that assessment either. Realistically, I think he profiles as an interesting prospect for only the deepest of AL-only and mixed dynasty formats, where more than 100 prospects (AL-only) and 250 (mixed) are owned on a consistent basis. If he can keep this performance level up with a promotion or at least for the full season, he may need to be reassessed once that occurs and see where he stands.

Sources

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
The Baseball Cube
Indiana University Athletics