Brian Johnson is a big bodied, power left hander with a four pitch mix and a remarkably repeatable delivery. The Boston Red Sox selected Johnson with the 31st pick in the 2012 draft out of Florida, but his season debut was cut short after taking a line drive off his head while pitching for Lowell that fractured multiple orbital bones.
Johnson bounced back and spent most of 2013 at Greenville before getting a couple of starts with Salem late in the season. He did struggle with shoulder tendinitis that cost him nearly five weeks in the middle of the season.
He has a very big lower body but doesn’t use his legs as much as he could which could explain some of the extra stress on his shoulder. As he begins to use his body a bit more to ease the stress of his three-quarter delivery, his body should be able to handle the workload of a starter. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s with a good curve and solid command of his change. He also has a pitch somewhere between a cutter and slider, which is clearly his fourth pitch and needs some improvement.
Despite getting only two regular season and one postseason start at Salem, Johnson could easily start the year with Portland. He would be best served to spend a full season in AA, then start 2015 at Pawtucket, and make his big league debut that season. In a farm system full of quality arms, Johnson won’t move the dial, but his potential to be a back of the rotation innings eater has real value. He may have a longer future with the Red Sox than some of the starters that show up higher than him on this and other prospect lists.