Until a couple of months ago, Orioles farmhand Steve Johnson was best known for being the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson. If he was known at all. It’s not like the baseball world was waiting with bated breath for the offspring of Dave Johnson to come and save the game. Dave Johnson’s claim to fame was that he led the AL in homers allowed in his one full season in the rotation (he ended his career in 1993 with a 22-25 record and a 5.11 ERA).
Now, back to Steve. Ignoring two emergency starts Johnson made in Double-A at the tender age of 18 in 2006, here’s how Steve has done in his intro to every level of baseball.
2005 Rookie ball: 0-2, 9.53 ERA in 11 1/3 IP
2006 Rookie adv: 5-5, 3.89 ERA in 78 2/3 IP
2007 Low-A ball: 3-6, 4.85 ERA in 81 2/3 IP
2008 High-A ball: 3-6, 7.10 ERA in 52 IP
2009 Double-A: 3-2, 2.84 ERA in 38 IP
2011 Triple-A: 2-7, 5.56 ERA in 87 1/3 IP
2012 Majors: 4-0, 1.62 ERA in 33 1/3 IP
Now, how exactly does one explain that? Johnson got the call for Baltimore in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader and shut out the Jays for five innings to pick up a victory. He’s won all three of his starts, striking out 22 in 16 innings in the process. Including his eight relief appearances, he’s fanned 43 batters in 33 1/3 innings.
Which is pretty awesome. Particularly from a guy who was a .500 pitcher and had a 4.17 career ERA in eight minor league seasons.
The Atlanta Braves selected high school pitcher Carter Stewart with the number eight overall pick in the 2018 draft. Then, after the draft, they gave Stewart a below-slot signing bonus offer, claiming that they found problems with his wrist in his post-draft physical. Stewart ended up rejecting the offer and the MLBPA filed a grievance against the Braves on Stewart’s behalf.
The grievance sought to make Stewart a free agent it was considered a long shot at the time of its filing and, in fact, the grievance was rejected. Stewart, unable to attain free agency, enrolled at Eastern Florida State College, a two-year school that would’ve made him eligible for the 2019 draft.
Now, Ken Rosenthal reports, Stewart has pulled a crazy Ivan and is heading to Japan, having signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. The terms of the deal aren’t known, but Rosenthal says Stewart was looking for a $7 million guarantee.
It’s a fascinating turn of events for Stewart who, this time last year, was considered perhaps the best amateur pitcher in baseball. Being lowballed and having his health questioned by the Braves may have been a wakeup call to Stewart, however, about his chances of finding a quick path the bigs in the U.S. If the shine did come off of his prospect status in the past year here, there’s every reason to believe that $7 million and a path to the bigs in Japan is a much better deal than several million less and a path to the bigs in America.
He’ll be worth watching over the next few years, that’s for sure. Both for his own sake and to see if, in this era of Major League Baseball’s capping of amateur bonuses and teams’ habit of manipulating service time, going overseas becomes more attractive to American high schoolers and college players.