Talent in the state of California is lighter than usually on the prep side in the 2018 draft class, which stands out more than it otherwise would after an extremely deep 2017 class, particularly in Southern California. Still, as always, the nation’s most populous state still has a number of intriguing prospects, and 2018 shortstop Osiris Johnson’s athleticism and twitchiness will make him one of the more exciting of the group. Out of Encinal High School in Alameda, Calif., Johnson represents a solid year in Northern California—which wasn’t up to par in 2017—and was in consideration for our top 50 high school prospects list. He’s a strong candidate for the high school Top 100 when it’s released in November.
Baseball America caught up with Johnson to talk about his experience on the summer circuit and working with Jimmy Rollins, among other things.
Baseball America: What's it like going to all these high-profile events all summer? How much more of a grind is it than the regular high school season?
Osiris Johnson: It's a lot of fun to be around all the good guys around the country and know that I'm up there with them. It's a lot of work. You have to be dedicated to making it in baseball, to getting to this level . . . late-night hitting, going to the gyms in the morning, doing it when you don't want to do it. You have to put the work in to be the best.
BA: What does a general day for you look like?
OJ: I start by working out. I wake up, I got to the gym for about an hour, hour and a half, then I come home (and) eat a good meal. Usually (I) watch a little film with my dad and then go hit. And I take my ground balls and I do my running. That's typically what I do in the spring.
BA: What exactly are you looking at when you go over film with your dad?
OJ:I'm looking back at some of my old videos of hitting and taking ground balls to make sure I can repeat that motion every time.
BA: How has that helped your progress and your development?
OJ: It helps me a lot actually. When my swing is veering off a little bit I just go back to the film and watch some old videos to get myself back and then I go work on it in the cage.
BA: What are some of your favorite events to go to this summer?
OJ: The (Perfect Game) All-American Classic was my favorite one of the whole summer. Just being around some of the best guys in the country that we have, learning some of their tips, what they do in their state, what music they listen to. It was good to get to know a whole bunch of different people around the country.
BA: What are some of the cooler cities that you’ve been to this summer?
OJ: I stayed in Tampa with my cousin when I tried out for the PG All-American (Classic), I was in (Los Angeles) a few times. I was in San Diego a few times . . . The one that really stood out to me was Florida. It was kind of weird, my second time in Florida. It was really humid. I didn't like the bugs out there. There was a lot of mosquitos and water bugs I didn't like.
BA: For someone who doesn’t know anything about you, how would you describe yourself as a player?
OJ: A joyful player, I'll do pretty much anything you need me to do. My biggest factor as a player is my hit tool. I work on hitting a lot. If you hit, you don't sit. Of course defense is a huge part in it. But if you can hit, they'll work (on) your defense with you.
BA: Has there been anything specific that you were focusing on this summer?
OJ: My fielding. I mean my fielding's pretty good, but there are some things that I need to do. Like my footwork needs to get a little better. I do my ladder drills to get my feet up.
BA: You play shortstop and outfield, is that footwork specifically for shortstop or both positions?
OJ: I like shortstop a lot more. That's my primary position, that's what I work at. Outfield, I can play it because I'm pretty athletic, but I don't really work it. I really work shortstop.
BA: What are the challenges of playing both the infield and the outfield?
OJ: It hasn't really been a challenge. I think shortstop is probably the biggest challenge to convince everyone that I'm able to stay in the infield, which I've proven of myself.
BA: Do you think the fact that you can play both might actually hurt you? In the sense that some people might be quicker to outright call you a center fielder?
OJ: It doesn't work against me, it helps me to be an all-around player. Just knowing that I can go out there is also a big upside for me. But shortstop is my primary position.
BA: Your second cousin is Jimmy Rollins. What’s it like being able to call someone like that a family member?
OJ: He's been helping me, giving me little tips here and there on shortstop for a couple years now, but the past like two years he's really (been) helping me a be a primary shortstop and a big league hitter, as he says.
BA: What are some of the biggest tips he's given you?
OJ: The biggest thing. . . He talks about my arm slot. How I should get my elbow up as I throw to get some of my arm strength up. I think that's the biggest thing. As I'm throwing, like my throwing routine that's something he's helped me with.
BA: Have you noticed a difference in-game already?
OJ: Yeah, my arm feels a lot stronger. I have a lot more backspin on the ball.
BA: All right, now we’ve got some rapid fire questions: Favorite non-baseball sport to watch?
BA: Favorite non-baseball sport to play?
BA: Favorite MLB team?
BA: Favorite MLB player?
OJ: Francisco Lindor
BA: Favorite non-baseball athlete?
OJ: Odell Beckham Jr.
BA: Favorite artist?
OJ: Probably Drake
BA: Favorite show on Netflix?
OJ: What now? By Kevin Hart
BA: We ask everyone this at BA, what’s your go-to Chipotle order?
OJ: A bowl, with brown rice, chicken, sour cream, the hot sauce, cheese and lettuce . . . Occasionally chips.
BA: What are you doing when you’re not playing baseball or training for baseball?
OJ: Usually out with friends, hanging out at their house . . . Just chilling.