Prospect Notebook: Erik Johnson Finishing Strong

Erik Johnson, rhp, White Sox: Johnson had to leave his July 3 start early with a right groin strain and missed most of the month for Triple-A Charlotte. He returned July 28 and has quickly gotten back on point in August, allowing all of three earned runs in 27 innings through four August starts. He held the International League’s most productive offense in check on Monday, tossing eight shutout innings against Durham to out duel Jake Odorizzi and the Bulls 1-0. His control has been strong all season, and true to form he allowed only one walk on Monday, helping him get around seven hits allowed (six of them singles). He struck out five on Monday, completing his eight innings on 105 pitches, and he’s rolled up a 44-13 strikeout-walk ratio in 45 Triple-A innings.

Johnson’s not on the White Sox’s 40-man roster at the moment, so there’s no guarantee he gets a September callup, but the 23-year-old should certainly be in the running for a rotation spot for the rebuilding club in 2014.

Matt den Dekker, cf, Mets: den Dekker might have already made his major league debut by now if he hadn’t broken his right wrist trying to make a diving catch in a spring training game. The injury kept him on the shelf until mid-June, when he began a two-week rehab stint with high Class A St. Lucie, and he joined Triple-A Las Vegas on July 1. He began his Triple-A stint in a 1-for-25 slump, but he’s since found his timing again, batting .317/.383/.525 since July 8. He added to those numbers on Monday by going 3-for-4 with two homers.

Of course, we do have to consider the effect of Las Vegas’ hitter-happy home field, where den Dekker’s hitting .325 compared to .236 on the road. Last night’s heroics did come in a visiting park, raising his road slugging percentage to an even .500, but it was in another hitter’s haven in Salt Lake. So while den Dekker’s power numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, perhaps the actual good news is he’s managing to put more balls in play in the first place. Strikeouts have always been his biggest downside, but he’s managed to slice his strikeout rate from 28.4 percent of his plate appearances in Triple-A last year to 24.4 percent through 45 Triple-A games this year.

Chris Reed, lhp, Dodgers: Reed’s had an up-and-down season for Double-A Chattanooga. He had a 5.46 ERA in May, then was one of the Southern League’s best pitchers in June, posting a 2.10 ERA. He hasn’t found that form consistently—he has a 4-10 record despite a respectable 3.68 overall ERA—but when his slider and changeup are working, Reed shows the frontline potential that made him a first-rounder in 2011. He had his best start since that hot May on Monday. Bouncing back from a rough outing on Aug. 14, when he gave up five runs in four innings, Johnson tossed seven shutout frames against Jacksonville, picking up his first win since June 14. He struck out eight and walked just one while allowing six hits.

Matt Olson, 1b, Athletics: Olson’s had mostly a forgettable second half at low Class A Beloit, hitting just .192/.323/.379 in 52 games. He does have nine second-half homers though, and 18 for the season, as there are still nights where he reminds you why the A’s paid $1,079,700 to sign him as the 47th overall pick in last year’s draft. Olson hit his fifth homer in 17 August games on Monday, going 3-for-4 and adding two doubles. Olson has a physical frame and scouts can project his in-game power to continue showing through as he moves up. His hit tool has some catching up to do however, as his 132 strikeouts are second most in the Midwest League, and the A’s have worked with him to add more loft to his swing, which can be a bit flat. The good news is he’s only 19, he’s fourth in the MWL in extra-base hits (46) and fifth in walks (67).