I enjoyed watching the Rome Braves play a little over a week ago and was able to take notes on many Rome players. I hope you enjoyed reading my Erik Cordier report a few days ago. Along with Johnson, I'll be adding Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward in the next couple of days.
Cody Johnson (1-6, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K) - I first wrote about Johnson in a "Fatal Flaw" piece questioning his future success based on his propensity to strike out far too much. After watching him play in person, my feelings about him have not changed. However, he will undoubtedly receive every opportunity to prove me wrong and will likely reach the bigs on power alone even if his other tools are below average across the board.
- Looked his listed height of 6'4"; Likely heavier than 195
- Great muscular build; NOT athletic
- Awkward physically in the outfield; Slow runner
- "Scrunched stants"; Did not look strong in the batters box
- Poor body language; Lacked confidence? Frustrated?
- Fooled often at the plate; Guess hitter?
- Same swing path for every pitch; Did not adjust for high/low pitches
- Late on 92+ MPH pitches; Lunges; Head pulls off the ball
- Doesn't follow through on swing finish
- Difficulty adjusting with two strikes; Guided bat through the zone instead of his "grip and rip" approach
- BIG power; Connected with 94 MPH fastball with 2 strikes for a 450-500 foot HR
Johnson turned out to be exactly as billed from everything I have read. The power is VERY real, but so is his being below average in all other aspects of his game. I see a great deal of Russ Branyan in him and believe he will have a similar career. His immense power will continue to tease and leave us wanting to believe in his being more than just a one-dimensional prospect. With that said, it would be wrong of me not to mention that in a quarter century of watching baseball in person, I would be hard pressed to recall such a mammoth shot being hit during a game situation. Using the phrase "light tower power" might not even to the home run justice.
It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to higher levels as pitchers throw less belt high fastballs and are able to locate multiple pitches. To be successful, Johnson will have to make significant adjustments to his hitting approach including the ability to take a strong swing at a something other than a belt high fastball. In this double header, he was behind just about every fastball he saw and flailed wildly at a couple of breaking balls low and away. With two strikes, his attempt at shortening up was to weakly guide his bat to the ball just hoping to make contact.
For comparison sake, take a look at Ryan Royster from 2007-2008. Royster's numbers dropped from .329/.380/.601 in the Sally to .265/.318/.373 in the FSL due high high strikeouts and discipline issues. With Johnson already at .250/.306/.478 with a jaw dropping 177 strikeouts, his numbers could become ugly in a hurry.