Top Pitching Prospect Pierce Johnson Has Been Promoted to High-A Daytona

daytona cubs logoWith Arodys Vizcaino on the shelf following a second elbow surgery, and a relative void in high-impact pitching talent at the upper levels of the Cubs’ farm system, Pierce Johnson has quickly emerged as arguably the organization’s very best pitching prospect. A supplemental first round pick last year (43rd overall), Johnson is getting in his first full season of professional experience this year, and it’s going well.

So well, in fact, that Johnson has just been promoted from Low-A Kane County to High-A Daytona. On the year, Johnson has a 3.10 ERA and 1.292 WHIP over 13 starts and 69.2 innings. He’s struck out 74 while walking just 22, so it’s easy to say he’s been doing very well. At 22, Johnson may have been a touch old for the Midwest League (though the median age is 22), but it is his first full professional season, and this kind of deliberate progress is to be expected.

Here’s hoping Johnson continues his success at Daytona, and he remains one of the top guys to watch in the second half. Taking Johnson’s spot on the Cougars’ roster is righty Armando Rivero, a Cuban signee about whom I wrote yesterday.

Johnson’s promotion is probably just the first in a stretch of promotion/demotion/release decisions we’ll be hearing about in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

59 responses to “Top Pitching Prospect Pierce Johnson Has Been Promoted to High-A Daytona”

  1. Cedlandrum

    Let there be rejoicing in the land!

    1. Spriggs

      Here’s to a mono-free Cubs season!

  2. Blublud

    After this past outing, I felt like he would get promotef before he started again.

  3. willis

    Great news. He’s been dealing and hopefully that continues.

  4. mak

    What’s a top pitching prospect?

  5. Rcleven

    Got to see him pitch Father’s Day at KC. Had been waiting to see him since spring. Seemed to be getting all his starts on the road. As I posted Monday he needed to be moved because he was dominant in mid A ball.
    Hope he continues his success at Daytona.
    Now if Maples can harness his pitches there will be some exciting prospects moving thru the system.

  6. JeffR

    How many total innings can we expect out of Johnson this year? Is it likely he will be shut down before Daytona’s season is over?

    1. AB

      I remember last year a couple guys in the cubs system in their first year of full season ball were shut down after 140 innings.

    2. AB

      Huh, Pierce Johnson is from the same hometown as Roy Halladay (Arvada, Colorado), right by me. That has to count for something.

      1. Timothy Scarbrough

        Obviously it means Peirce Johnson is Roy Halladay.

      2. JoyceDaddy

        I just graduated from CU and live in Boulder, CO and a couple of my frat brothers grew up with Pierce. Granted they’re his friends, they all think he will become a legitimate #2 starter in the MLB.

    3. Luke

      Likely no more than 160.

      1. Noah

        Although 160 is essentially a full minor league season, since their season is about a month shorter. With Johnson averaging 5.36 innings per start to this point, at that length he’d need to have 30 starts to go above 160, which would be a lot of starts in the minors. The only way he would go above is if Daytona makes the playoffs, which would require winning the second half.

  7. SenorGato

    Finally. This needed to happen.

    On another note, this might be the longest hes gone without injury since his senior year of HS. Its a little depressing that he is the top pitcher in the system because of that. Guys like M

    1. SenorGato

      Guys like Masek and Frazier will hopefullygive him some quick and tough competition.

      1. ssckelley

        Let’s not forget about Paul Blackburn who was the 2nd round pick last year. He is only 19 years old and has gotten off to a good start in Boise.

        1. SenorGato

          I want to hear more about Blackburn’s velocity first. Im not the biggest Pierce fan – have him pegged as a reliever – but he is ahead of Blackburn.

          Paniagua and Underwood have the kind of power arms that this system desperately needs so I have both above Blackburn.

          1. ssckelley

            Again he is only 19 years old! Plenty of time for him to develop more velocity and pitches.

            1. SenorGato

              Meh, possible but not easy to find velocity.

          2. Noah

            Do you have Johnson pegged as a reliever because of injury concerns? Because I have yet to hear any concerns about his stuff that would lead me to believe he should be pegged as a likely reliever at this point.

            1. Luke

              I tend to look at most pitching prospects as starters until proven otherwise. Johnson still has plenty of upside as a starter, I think.

              1. SenorGato

                I find myself doing the opposite over the past year. They’re all relievers until the stuff, other physical attributes, and skills are all starter level.

            2. Kyle

              Eh, his stuff would definitely play better as a reliever. If he doesn’t develop enough polish to be an impressive starter, the extra velocity coming out of the pen could easily help.

              I’d say starter/reliever are pretty equally likely. Johnson’s not a bad prospect, but he does get overhyped a bit by virtue of being the best of a really weak pitching system.

              1. Rcleven

                Really like the eye test to see how he got to the numbers. Saw him for time Sunday. Threw the ball with a good flowing motion. Only saw three or four ball hit hard in seven innings. Only one of the hard hit balls left the infield on the fly. Most balls were weak topped grass hoppers hit back to the mound. Was consistent at 91/93 fastball for strikes. Only weakness I saw was he was gassed at the end of five innings and still went two more without being hit hard and still in that 91 range.
                May have been a little old for the league but yes but you have to start somewhere and was head and shoulders above anyone on the KC staff. In the next year if he can build the endurance he could make a nice addition the for the back of the rotation in 15/16.

                1. SenorGato

                  Not very inspired by hearing that this college trained potential 2-3 starter (according to the former perts out there, do like your conclusion on his upside as a starter if he finds some stamina) was tired by the 5th innings facing A ball hitters.

                  1. gocatsgo2003

                    It’s almost like he’s a kid in his first full professional season building the arm strength to go more innings against professional hitters. How shocking.

                    1. SenorGato

                      Sure that’s a workable reason, but considering full context of Pierce Johnson (hyped as a fallen first due to injuries with 2-3 upside out of college) its still not something that does not sound good.

                  2. Rcleven

                    This is only my assessment of where he is at at this time.
                    He showed he was at least one level better than he was pitching at. The kid can hit the strike zone with all his pitches
                    without being hit hard.
                    Maples was the only other arm in the KC system that has excited me. The day I saw him he was lights out with the same 91/93 fastball and better off speed stuff than Johnson.
                    If and when he learns to throw strikes look out. Curve is best pitch that he throws for strikes but has no idea where his fast ball is going.

                  3. JB88

                    It was also humid and almost 90 during the game. He definitely wasn’t sitting 94 by the sixth/seventh, but he also wasn’t sucking gas either.

                    1. SenorGato

                      Does he ever sit 94? Not that I know of.

                      As far as the weather – sounds like summer.

                    2. JB88

                      Sounds like summer, but it has been a very cool start to summer in the Chicago area. I don’t hold it against someone to struggle their first time in that heat.

                      As for where he sits, I couldn’t tell you. I do know that from my vantage point, I didn’t perceive a substantial difference in the speed of his pitches or that he was laboring to throw 7.

            3. SenorGato

              Yeah, his injury history is cartoonishly bad going back tonhis senior year in HS. He once dislocated his knee while warming up in the bullpen!

              Throw in a skinny frame and mediocre mechanics and never been a big fan as a starter. Its possible but then you start worrying the upside as a starter is overstated.

              I think his breaking ball would kill out of the pen. Its somewhat understated how many quality relievers are minor league starters, so him being a starter now isn’t much of a determining factor in what he will be if he makes it to the Cubs.

  8. Jason

    Johnson looked solid last Sunday. glad to see him get promoted. hopefully he can post similar numbers in Daytona.

  9. ssckelley

    I got to see Johnson pitch in Cedar Rapids and he shut down a very potent Twins offense that features Byron Buxton. His fastball hovered around 92 all night and he had good command, I do not remember him walking anybody. It will be interesting to see how big of a difference pitching in Daytona will be for him. Hopefully by next season he will be able to jump up to Tennessee.

  10. bryan

    Anyone have any ideas where TWC is gonna be assigned? My gut tells me mesa for a few weeks but I hope we get to see him in Kane County before the end of the season

    1. cub4life

      I don’t even know what position he plays……hopefully 2B or 3B, but I wouldn’t be apossed to SP……any of those three and he might even be able to make it to the MLB team after the deadline…………….

    2. ssckelley

      You can’t fool me twice on this one!

      1. bryan

        Rumor has it he had successful TJ surgery last spring and the cubs believe he can be a power arm reliever. My buddy, who is buddies with the sister of McCleod’s cousin, said he has 4 pitches with an overpowering screwball and a plus fastball. his Knucklecurve and palmballs are both adequate when he can spot them accurately. Im really excited and hope he pans out better than last years 41rst round selection.

        1. DarthHater

          I understand that his screwloose, knucklehead, and facepalm are all outstanding.

          1. King Jeff

            He’s also got an 80 green thumb tool, at least that’s what the rumors say.

            1. DarthHater

              He could be the most mysterious yet intriguing prospect since Sidd Finch.

        2. Brian

          Some are even saying his Eephus is the best ever seen.

          1. hansman1982

            It’s a very deceptive pitch. For the first 65′ it looks identical to his fastball.

            1. DarthHater

              For the remaining 25 feet, it looks like a baseball lying on the ground.

              1. hansman1982

                I realize I screwed the pooch on the distance first, but apparently TWC has been throwing from 3rd base the entire time.

  11. butlerdawgs

    Hopefully he pitches when I’m there on July 12.

    1. Bilbo161

      Don’t get your hopes up.

  12. When the Music's Over

    Not trying to be a downer here, but I’m a bit confused how a polished college pitcher older than his league sporting a 1.3 WHIP is a completely dominating pitcher (as many suggest). His performance was nice and all, but I still think he has a lot of work to do if he intends to be a number three pitcher at the MLB level. Frankly his numbers should have been better as a 22 year old in low A ball if he is to be considered dominant.

    1. jh03

      Don’t scout minor league box scores… Trust what scouts/people who watch him say.

      1. When the Music's Over

        Yeah, to some extent, but I’d expect an old for his league polished college pitcher #3 MLB starter to destroy Low A. But you’re right, there are a lot of variables in place that cannot be adequately accounted for straight from stats.

        More than anything, I just want people to proceed with some caution, as many are already penciling him in as a well above average MLB starter.

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