4. Sherman Johnson, 23, A+. 4.3 WAR. .276/.382/.465 with 17 HR and 26 SB
Are you sitting down? Good. What I'm about to say may come as a shock.
The Halos system is thin on position players.
I know, right?! Hope I didn't blindside you.
Please take that fundamental fact of scarcity into consideration when evaluating the following statement: Sherman Johnson may wind up the best major leaguer of any of our current position prospects, despite the total lack of buzz trailing him in national sources. I currently have him as the third best position "prospect" in the system (remember, not the highest of praise), and if Kyle Kubitza keeps swinging through fastballs I might just jump him another spot. With Roberto Baldoquin still a complete unknown, it wouldn't take much to bump Johnson ahead of him either.
Like Kubitza, Taylor Featherston, and (supposedly) Roberto Baldoquin, Johnson has excellent plate discipline and has always posted well-above average walk rates. Like Alex Yarbrough, Carlos Perez and Jett Bandy, he has a knack for solid contact. Like Baldoquin, Perez, Bandy, and Kody Eaves, he comes with plenty of defensive value, and could top out as a plus glove at a skill position (or even two of them). And, like every one of the those guys, he's also earned a reputation for plus make-up.
For the foreseeable future, Dipoto has the option of surrounding Trout and a solid pitching staff with a supporting cast that doesn't have to include a whole lot of star power, just competence. It's similar to what Stoneman was able to do with Vladimir Guerrero from 2004 on, though instead of hyper-athletic "track stars," Dipoto's traits of choice appear to be solid minor league track records, a healthy dose of plate discipline, and complimentary platoon splits.
Johnson fits the criteria perfectly, and it's the breadth of his skill set that could set him apart from his peers. He walks a ton, can run some, and racked up as many total bases as Yarbrough did in 2014. He's a defensive swiss army knife -- as skilled as he is versatile -- who swings from the left side of the plate. He's not punchless either, knocking 17 longballs last year. Sure, eight of those came in bandbox Cal League parks, but that means he slammed nine dingers under more legit circumstances. But power isn't a big part of his game; why are we talking about power? If he does carve out an everyday super-utility role (or everyday third baseman?), scouts and analysts will look back and wonder how they missed this guy.
Some interesting tidbits, because, well, this is the time of year for tidbits: Johnson went unnoticed out of high school, then walked on to Florida State and became one of their best players by the end his sophomore year. He posted a pretty awesome reverse split against lefties last year, showing a complete immunity to breaking balls and slamming a .318/.448/.583 line against same-handers. We saw that play out last Friday, when Johnson lined a one-hop shot to the second baseman on a hanging breaker from a same-hander. It didn't go for a hit, but it was solid contact. Lastly, whether it was intentional or not, Johnson molded his game to the 66'ers home park last year, walking and running the bases more often in an environment scarce in extra bases.
Of course, there's the reality that he hasn't faced Double A pitching yet, so in the end the scouts might prove wise for not having expended any ink in writing up his hit tool. However, if he can replicate his 2014 success, look for Johnson to leapfrog a bunch of guys in the current rankings on his way to a productive, if low-profile, big league career. I'm pretty optimistic about him -- it goes beyond the numbers -- and think that he might wind up some sort of bizzaro cross between the Cardinals'Matt Carpenter and our own Chone Figgins.