SYRACUSE, N.Y.—By the time the East Coast Pro Showcase, the third of the four large national showcases, comes along, scouts have seen nearly all of the top tier high school arms during showcase season. That was true again this year with one exception—righthander Cobi Johnson, who made his highly-anticipated national debut Friday.
Blink and you would have missed it. Working quickly and efficiently, Johnson did not allow a baserunner in his three innings.
“I wanted to work fast, throw strikes to get ahead and cruise through the innings,” Johnson said.
Johnson threw less than 30 pitches and generated a handful of first-pitch outs.
Using a full windup, Johnson generates downhill plane from a high three-quarter arm slot. His fastball has late life and sink and he generated six groundouts. His easy, minimal-effort delivery also creates deception and tough angles, as he works from the first base side of the rubber and throws across his body. With a full, compact arm action and high glove extension, Johnson hides the ball well and the ball jumps out of his hand.
Johnson established his 89-91 mph fastball, which was up to 94 mph during the spring in shorter stints, early in counts and showed feel for a 78-82 mph changeup.
“I didn’t have my curveball for my first two innings. I had to work on it and it got better in the third,” Johnson said. “I was trying a little too hard to get after it, so I had to gain my balance over the rubber and let my arm catch up to my body and snap it out there.”
The 76-78 mph offering showed shape and depth, and has potential.
The 6-foot-4 Johnson attends James Mitchell High in Holiday, Fla., and took a month and a half off following a heavy workload during his spring season. His frame is very projectable with broad shoulders and long, lean legs. Johnson started a weight lifting program within the last year and weighed in at 188 pounds earlier in the week, which is the most he has ever weighed.
There were a few Florida-based scouts in attendance that saw Johnson’s father, Dane, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound righthander, as an amateur. Dane, who pitched in the big leagues, was a second-round pick in the 1984 draft out of Division II St. Thomas (Fla.) by the Blue Jays, and he currently works as Toronto’s roving pitching instructor.
Cobi, whose high school is a 20 minute drive from the Blue Jays’ spring training facility in Dunedin. has studied pitching mechanics with his father since a young age.
“His delivery is very similar,” Cobi said. “He is big on over the head and hands breaking right when your knee gets up there so it is smooth and comes out well.”
During his playing days, Dane was known for his arm strength and breaking ball.
“He likes to break out the VHS tapes every once in a while and say, ‘Watch this if you want to see a real curveball,’” Cobi said. “He has taught me everything I know. He has set up programs for my mechanics and for throwing schedules. He is my throwing partner. I am so fortunate to have such a great father.”
The Florida State commit will attend the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego on Aug. 11 and Under Armour All-American Game in Chicago on August 24. Both events will be broadcast live on the MLB Network.