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Pop-Up Prospect Getting Attention In Mississippi

A month ago, Jared Johnson had one college offer, to Itawamba (Miss.) JC. Pitching for Smithville (Miss.) High, his usual high school game was thrown in front of a few dozen fans—Smithville's overall population is just shy of 1,000 people.

There are larger crowds seeing Johnson pitch right now, and it’s not just because Smithville is in the Mississippi Class 1A playoffs. When he pitches tonight, he’ll likely throw in front of 15 or more scouts and several crosscheckers, as well as a number of recruiting coordinators. He’s become the target of a number of Southeastern Conference team’s attention.

That’s what throwing 97 mph will do for you.

In a sport with fewer and fewer true pop-up prospects because of the proliferation of summer showcases, Johnson is the rare draft prospects who seems to have come out of nowhere. Few scouts or recruiting coordinators had heard of him in mid-March. Now, he’s becoming a must-see pitcher.

The buzz started building a few weeks ago. The level of competition Johnson faces isn’t all that stout, but stuff is stuff, and it’s much easier to evaluate a pitcher against low-level hitting competition than it is to evaluate a hitter in similar circumstances.

Recruiters and scouts can see that Johnson’s stuff is quite impressive. He’s consistently 90-94 mph and has touched 95-97 mph at his best this spring. He mixes in a low-80s slider that has some promise. He’s 6-foot-3 with a strong build. He’s raw, but he is generally around the strike zone.

The next month will be a very interesting one for Johnson and his family. He’s become the subject of a solid recruiting battle and all of a sudden scouts are having to figure out how comfortable they are in their evaluations of a pitcher with very little track record but plenty of promise. He's understandably raw, but the arm works well and the frame is there to hold velocity.

Since it’s the playoffs, this could be Johnson’s last start of the season. A couple of months ago, that could have been it for Johnson’s spring. Now, he’s likely to have some workouts and other details to attend to over the upcoming month.

Chase Dollander (Bill Mitchell)

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