For all 2016 Prospect Ranking Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out one a day over the offseason).
Stephen Johnson began his 2015 season in the San Francisco Giants organization. The Giants sent him to Double-A Richmond to start the year. The first week of the season was strong for the big right hander as he threw 4.0 combined innings with no earned runs, a walk and struck out nine batters. The next week got out to a good start, throwing 1.1 hitless innings in the first two outings. The third and final outing of the week was a struggle though as he allowed three runs in 1.1 innings on five hits. He finished the month out strong with 2.2 hitless innings over two appearances in the final week. Johnson posted a 3.00 ERA in 9.0 innings with four walks and 16 strikeouts on the month.
May didn’t start well for the former 6th round pick as he allowed two runs in just 0.2 innings. He would rebound well by tossing 3.2 hitless innings with five strikeouts in the other two outings of the week. The second week began just like the first did, by allowing two runs in the first outing. The third week also saw the same thing as he again allowed two runs in his first outing of the week. The final three games of the month were strong, tossing 4.1 shutout innings. His month was completed with a 3.86 ERA in 14.0 innings to go along with eight walks and 16 strikeouts.
The first week of June was rough for Johnson as he allowed three earned runs in 2.1 innings over three appearances. The next week he only took the mound twice. The first outing was tough as he didn’t record an out and allowed two runs before throwing 2.2 shutout frames in his other outing. In the third week he made two appearances and tossed 3.1 shutout innings with three walks and four strikeouts. In the final two games of June he would allow a run in 2.2 innings with two strikeouts. The month was rough for Johnson as he posted a 4.91 ERA in 11.0 innings with nine walks and 12 strikeouts.
July didn’t get out to a particularly strong start for the right handed reliever, allowing a run in 0.2 innings in the first outing of the month. He followed that up with 2.1 innings of no earned run baseball the rest of the first week. He would only take the mound once in the second week of the month, but he made it count by tossing three shutout innings with three strikeouts. In the third week he would allow a run over 3.2 innings than stretched out over three games. After a perfect inning on the 23rd, things went south in his final appearance of the month. He would allow four runs in 3.0 innings against Erie on the 26th. For the month he would post a 3.68 ERA in 14.2 innings with four walks and 12 strikeouts.
It was eight days before Johnson would take the mound after his final appearance in July. He would only pitch twice in the first week of August, being charged with an unearned run in two 1.0 inning appearances. In the second week of the month he would be charged with another unearned run over three appearances and 4.2 innings. In the third week of August he would allow a run in 2.2 innings, but that wasn’t the key for the week. On the 20th the Cincinnati Reds and San Frnacisco Giants agreed to send Johnson to Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd. The Reds sent the righty to Double-A Pensacola. He would make his debut on August 23rd and throw 4.0 innings in the final week of August with four strikeouts. In the last week of the season he would make three more appearances for Pensacola and toss another 4.2 shutout innings and those innings came along with seven more strikeouts. Over his final 13 games of the year he would post a 0.50 ERA in 18.0 innings with six walks and 23 strikeouts.
After the season was over the team sent Johnson to the Arizona Fall League where he posted a 0.73 ERA in 12.2 innings, allowing four hits (including a home run), walked two batters and had eight strikeouts.
Overall, the season for Stephen Johnson was a bit inconsistent. His first half wasn’t nearly as strong as his second half where he cut down on his walk rate and posted a 1.93 ERA.
Fastball | Johnson has a fastball that works in the 92-96 MPH range. He’s been as high as 102 MPH in the past, but hasn’t reached triple digits in a while.
Curveball | The pitch works in the 79-83 MPH range. It’s inconsistent at times, ranging from average to well above-average at times. When it’s at it’s best it shows break on both planes and is downright nasty. At other times it’s more of a 12-6 breaking ball with solid biting action, but not the true snap it shows when at its best.
In terms of pure stuff, Stephen Johnson has very, very good stuff. The breaking ball has some consistency issues, but it’s still a solid pitch when it’s not on. Control has long been the problem for the reliever though. The 2015 season saw him post his best walk rate of his career and even then it was a season in which he walked 4.2 batters per 9 innings, a rate much higher than you want to see. In limited action after joining the Reds, between the 8.2 innings in the regular season and the 12.1 he threw in the Arizona Fall League he walked just four batters, good for a 1.7 walks per 9 innings rate. It was a small sample size in both cases, but a step in the right direction. With the control he’s shown in the past he profiles as a 6th inning reliever despite the impressive stuff. If he’s able to find more control and the strikezone more consistently, he could profile as more of an 8th inning reliever in the future.