Miami hasn’t historically shied away from athletic, raw, toolsy high school hitters in the draft, no matter how long they might take to develop. Johnson fits right in line with that mold. Still 17-years-old, he’s extremely young for this draft class—making it all the more remarkable the Marlins chose to challenge him with an assignment to Class A Greensboro to finish his pro debut. Johnson looked badly overmatched against much older pitching in the South Atlantic League in a recent look, though the loud offensive tools showed through.
Johnson’s 6-foot and 180-pound frame has advanced strength throughout, barrel-chested with a powerful core and room to add muscle across the upper half. He whips the barrel through the zone with plus batspeed, generating explosive loud contact when he squares up his pitch. The physicality and raw power jump off the page, but there’s a long way to go before he’s able to reliably get to his power in games in pro ball. He’s a present 20-grade hitter—though that isn’t fully damning given his age—whose lack of experience against advanced pitching shows up when he sees an off-speed pitch. An aggressive hitter early in counts, Johnson consistently expands the zone and swings himself out of at-bats without making pitchers challenge him for a strike. There’s limited pitch recognition and strike zone awareness right now, and Johnson’s overall feel and instincts looked raw. Defensively, he signed as a shortstop but looks like a candidate to move to third base. Johnson’s broad frame likely outgrows the position, and is hands and footwork are below-average at short.
Johnson’s youth and blend of offensive upside and current rawness make him a quintessential risk/reward player. He’s 4+ years from big league ready and should be viewed as a long-burn prospect, though one who could fit the profile of a big league third baseman if his contact ability and approach catch up with the power potential.