pierce johnson daytona cubsI saw that Tennessee’s starting pitcher, as of this morning, was still listed as TBA. I wondered if this was coming, and I’m very happy to say that it is.

Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Pierce Johnson will make his AA debut tonight, starting for the Tennessee Smokies (Mick Gillespie broke the news). Johnson suffered a mild hamstring strain in Spring Training, and the Cubs took it exceedingly easy with his recovery, getting him ready for the season at a pace commensurate not only with his injury, but also – presumably – with his importance to the organization.

Johnson, 22, was a supplemental first rounder for the Cubs 2012 (43rd overall), and has worked his way onto a number of top 100 prospect lists. In the Cubs’ system, he’s generally ranked behind only C.J. Edwards on the pitching side, and right there after The Big Four positional guys, plus Arismendy Alcantara. He’s a clear top ten prospect in a very good Cubs system. He’s kind of a big deal.

Last year, splitting time between Low-A Kane County and High-A Daytona, Johnson posted a 2.74 ERA over 118.1 innings, striking out 124 and walking 43.

  • josh ruiter

    any chance he pitches well enough this year, provided health and effectiveness, that he opens in the rotation next season?

    • SenorGato

      Or better yet – helps land someone who guaranteed will make the rotation next year and perform at a high level?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      There is a chance, but I’m not sure how strong of one. Lot of moving parts on the 2015 rotation right now.

      • josh ruiter

        I was thinking the same thing Luke. Theoretically 4 of our 5 will still be here next year, and it will be go time for Hendricks, Jokisch, Pimentel, Wada…and some of Pineyro, Edwards, Johnsen, Rhee amongst others could be pressing to make the big league club. Factoring in the presumption that the Cubs take a potential TOR arm in this years draft and seeming consensus that they will go hard after one or more of Masterson, Scherzer, and Lester and we find ourselves in a condundrum. Not a bad conundrum to find oneself in, but still, what in the world will we do with all the pieces? Some of the guys are going to be have to shipped out sooner than later in my estimation. Maybe three of our rotation this year alone? Luke, thoughts?

        • Kyle

          It is never going to be go-time for the majority of guys you just listed.

          And you never, ever have too much pitching. A lot of those guys will be coming down with arm problems or total ineffectiveness in the next year.

          • josh ruiter

            kyle, of the 4 guys I listed as “go time” which one/one’s will not have to get a shot this/next year in order to stay on the radar? With great prospect waves comes great amount of cast away’s. my question is who do you think gets their shot and who is cast aside to make room for the waves coming up?

            • Kyle

              The only one of that list worthy of seroius consideration for a MLB job is Hendricks, and even he’s borderline.

              Nobody’s getting cast aside. We’re going to have to scramble to find an adequate rotation each year. We won’t be having a surplus anytime soon.

              • josh ruiter

                that’s true, I was more talking about the glut of pitching that will be pushing to AAA in the next year to year and a half working their way up the ladder. I agree most of those guys don’t scream MLB rotation, though all four could be in discussion for 4/5 type roles, and will be getting bumped from AAA slots in the not too distant future. And then after our AA starters jump we have the likes of Underwood, Blackburn, Tseng, etc. following not far behind to AA and then AAA accordingly.

                • Chad

                  This is a very good problem to have, and I think it is as simple as the guys that don’t project to help the cubs much just go away to make room for those that need to develop and have impact potential.

              • Joshua Edwards

                Disagree. The Cubs are starting to see a glut of BOR arms. And while a stable of 4s and 5s seems lames (because it is), a rotation of Wood, plus FA, plus high draft pick, plus 1 or 2 overachievers/underachievers from the stable, plus whatever happens with Shark, means the Cubs get to say that they are only 1 or 2 impact arms away from a legit rotation.

                That said, almost every team can say that. The difference is that the glut of 4-5 starters and pitching depth is more than we’ve seen it in Chicago in the last

                • Joshua Edwards

                  several years.

                  Bottom line, I think the floor is rising on Cubs pitching and we are waiting for some guys to hit the ceiling–and are better suited for it than we’ve been in a long time.

                  That has to be progress. No matter how you slice it.

    • Norm

      *Opens* in the rotation next year?
      Zero chance.

      • josh ruiter

        zero? he will be 23 and the effective clock would be ticking…I understand the cost control, but i still think especially by age 23 that super 2 would be a non-factor, especially in the age of early extensions, we may begin to see that become a non-factor more and more down the line if the trend of team friendly, early pay-days continues.

        • Jon

          Guys, let’s leave the official BN handicapping to BH1963.

          • josh ruiter

            oh yeh jon, well i’ve those shitty finger paintings you bring home, and they suck!

        • NorthSideIrish

          I don’t think it’s a service clock issue as much as an experience one. He pitched at A ball last season and he’s had some injury issues. He pitches this season at AA and opens next year in Iowa. Conceivable he pitches in the majors at some point next season, but yes, it is extremely unlikely that he begins 2015 in the major league rotation.

          • josh ruiter

            There is much truth in that comment. I also recall he was a first round talent with few doubts until some injury issues scared teams off, so I remain curious if he can avoid those injury issues how quickly he could climb?

    • Hee Seop Chode

      The FO hasn’t shown a propensity to move prospects quickly. Beyond that, Kyle Hendricks is waiting in AAA for his first shot at the rotation.

      • josh ruiter

        of course you aren’t referring to the multiple levels last year for Bryant, Baez, Edwards, Johnson, Soler’s jump, etc.?

        • Hee Seop Chode

          I could have articulated that more clearly. I don’t recall any prospects skipping any levels, and The FO have talked repeatedly about dominating each level before advancing. This even applied to Bryant.

  • JCubs79

    I was thinking he would be the guy starting tonight. Good to see.

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

    Luke could probably speak more to this, but I think he’s still having change up command issues. I think there’ll be a rotation spot in AAA next year, no need to rush him. Edwards and Johnson back-to-back in 3-4 spots in the MLB rotation in 2016 is what it seems to be looking like. But look at Ivan Pineyro… he’s off to a great start!

  • JulioZuleta

    Has there been any sort of an update on Soler’s timeline?

  • http://iawrestle.com On The Farm

    Awesome news. I remember watching him pitch for Kane County against a good Cedar Rapids team. He really has some good pitches and I hope he can continue to develop.

  • JulioZuleta

    For anyone that may be worried by Baez’s slow start:
    2013 after 11 games: 0.170 Avg 30k%
    2014 after 11 games: 0.170 Avg 39k%

    He’s 2 levels higher this year, and he was interrupted by injury already.

    (I wasn’t worried about his start, I was just curious as to how it compared to last year. He was 2-5 with a 3B (and 2 Ks) today)

    • Dustin S

      Now that you mention that I almost forgot how rough he started after moving up last year. But he adjusted pretty quickly and then demolished the ball.

    • Jed Jam Band

      Nope, was not worried. I feel sorry for the AAA pitchers who are soon going to be ambushed by his onslaught of power.

      • JulioZuleta

        Yeah, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the lack if people freaking out. I just remembered it being an awful start last year and was curious how similar he has been. Pretty similar, apparently.

    • DarthHater

      OMG, his K% is GOING UP!!!

  • JL82

    I see Johnson as a closer or a setup man

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Any reasoning behind that?

    • SenorGato

      +1 on this

      Not a big guy in the world of pitching, more a two pitch guy who can show a changeup sometimes, laundry list of injuries throughout his amateur career…I’ve been thinking more Scott Williamson than the future #2/3 starter that apparently every prospect can one day be.

  • JL82

    His arm action is pretty funky. I just wonder if he could hold up as a starter

    • MoneyBoy

      You’d have to hope Derek Johnson has kept and eye on him and will correct any flaws that would cause lingering arm/shoulder issues.

  • MaxM1908

    Off topic, but I just won my firm’s sweet 3rd base-line tickets for the 100th anniversary game tomorrow, making my previously purchased tickets redundant. Let me know over on the message board if you want them: http://www.bleachernation.com/forum/index.php?/topic/3149-2-tickets-aisle-219-for-tomorrows-100th-anniversary-game/.

  • itzscott

    Pierce Johnson is mowing down the Birmingham Barons and appears to be doing quite well in his 2014 debut.

    • willis

      Boy did you jinx things…