Image credit: Cameron Johnson participates in the 2022 Perfect Game All-American Classic at Chase Field on August 26-28, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona (Bill Mitchell)
Peter Flaherty is highlighting some of the most notable incoming freshmen who we expect to contribute during the 2024 college season.
Following a dominant 2022 summer circuit, Cameron Johnson entered the 2023 season as one of the most decorated prep arms in his class. The towering 6-foot-5 lefthander spent the first three years of his high school career at Bishop McNamara in his home state of Maryland, but transferred to national powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior season.
Johnson was excellent this spring for the Ascenders, and pitched his way to a 6-0 record with an impressive 43-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 innings. Johnson ranked as the No. 43 prospect on the BA 500, and drew significant day one draft interest, but he decided to honor his commitment to the defending national champion Louisiana State Tigers.
What He Brings To Campus
Johnson’s calling card is his thunderous, high-90s fastball that plays even harder than its already premium velocity. He hides the ball incredibly well, essentially throwing it from his back pocket, and attacks from a low, three-quarters slot. Johnson’s heater explodes out of his hand and gets on opposing hitters quickly. It has plenty of life through the strike zone and is a strong 60-grade offering.
While Johnson relies heavily on his fastball, he supplements it with an effective, low-80s slider. For the most part, Johnson maintains the same arm speed as he does on his fastball, though it will slow down at times. Currently, the slider is an above-average offering but has plus potential down the road. It has sharp, two-plane break and generates its fair share of swing and miss against both right and lefthanded hitters. Johnson’s slider is especially lethal against lefthanded hitters—both given the movement of the pitch and his release point.
One key for Johnson going forward to maximize his upside will be the development of a third pitch. He has a changeup in his arsenal, but he throws it sparingly and lacks feel for it. Mechanically, Johnson could sit deeper on his back side which would lead to him adding a touch more of velocity and allow his fastball to flirt with triple digits. Johnson lives around the strike zone and has shown above average command of his offerings. He is largely a finished product physically, but his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame is fantastic clay with which LSU can work.
As for Johnson’s role in 2024, LSU’s weekend rotation is largely set in stone as the Tigers will rely on Alabama transfer Luke Holman (7-4, 3.67 ERA), Thatcher Hurd (8-2, 5.68 ERA), and one of Griffin Herring (5-2, 3.93 ERA), Nate Ackenhausen (2-1, 3.52 ERA) or Micah Bucknam (0-0, 11.57 ERA). Bucknam is coming off an impressive summer in the Cape Cod League where he worked a 3.94 ERA over the course of three starts. However, LSU coach Jay Johnson has shown he isn’t afraid to rely on his true freshmen in past years so expect the big lefty to log meaningful innings next spring.
Looking towards the 2026 draft, Johnson has early first round upside and has a chance to be the top arm in the entire class.