Cubs Excited About Landing Johnson





CHICAGO — For Pierce Johnson, the minor elbow injury couldn't have come at a worse time. But the Cubs see Johnson's misfortune last spring as one of the best things to happen since Theo Epstein took charge.

The power righthander from Missouri State had been projected as a first-rounder in the 2012 draft, but slipped after he missed two April starts with an injury that was termed a forearm strain. The Cubs picked him with the 43rd overall pick after Baseball America had projected him as the No. 32 player in the draft. He signed for a bonus of $1,196,000 and immediately became one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in the organization.

"We obviously think really highly of Pierce," vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod said. "There's no way we would have had a chance to get him if he didn't have an elbow twinge when all the teams were coming to see him. It gave us some hope he would be (available after the first round). He's a first-round talent with a quality arm."

Johnson, selected with the compensation pick the Cubs received for Aramis Ramirez, made six appearances as a pro before reporting for instructional league.

"You love what you see," McLeod said. "He's got a power curveball and he can run the velocity up to 95, 96 (mph)."

Despite missing those two starts in April, Johnson helped Missouri State make the NCAA tournament. He compiled a 2.53 ERA and struck out 119 over 100 innings, with four consecutive double-digit strikeout games in one stretch.

Johnson is a baseball rat whose father once worked as vice president of marketing for the Padres. "Qualcomm Stadium was basically my home," Johnson said in a 2012 interview. "I was always out there watching batting practice."

CUBBYHOLE

• The Cubs will use Arodys Vizcaino as a starter in 2013. Acquired from the Braves in the deal that sent Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to Atlanta, the righthander reached the big leagues as a reliever with Atlanta in 2011 before missing the 2012 season after Tommy John surgery.

• Cuban righthander Yoanner Negrin had a strong winter with Caracas in the Venezuelan League, going 4-1, 2.61 in 12 starts.