I'll admit, Erik Johnson is a bit of a mystery to me. There was some chatter last year about him in the minors and I'm sure I read it in passing. Reading about the farm system is great in the off season, but once the season starts the prospects fade to the background. What's more, Johnson didn't make his Major League debut until September of last year. If you were paying close attention to the White Sox by September, you are a better fan than I.
The numbers from last year, all five starts, aren't terribly impressive, a 3.25 ERA, 18 strikeouts with almost as many walks, 11. He also managed 27.2 innings, again not terribly impressive. The major plus is his age. Johnson is only 24. He also pitched very well in minors last year between AA and AAA, a 1.96 overall ERA, 142 innings pitched and 131 strikeouts. When Bill James does his projections, he includes minor stats. Unfortunately, The Bill James Handbook didn't include Johnson this time around. Over at Fangraphs, the projections they have are decent, especially considering he is at the back end of the rotation. The four forecasts have him somewhere between 120 and 160 innings pitched, 90-120 strikeouts, and an ERA between the high 3's and the high 4's. They do project him getting hit pretty regularly with some average to high numbers for hits allowed and BABIP. Overall though, considering he's still really young, if nothing else if he makes the 21+ starts that the projections are going with, that would be pretty good.
When I wrote about Paulino, I mentioned I'm kind of done with the "buy low/hope high" approach to building a team. The way the White Sox have handled Erik Johnson is much more to my liking. A player drafted by the White Sox who worked his way up, pretty rapidly no less, and the major league club is giving him a shot. Even if it doesn't work out, it just feels more exciting than trying to get a bean stalk from some magic beans.
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