The MLB Draft is this coming Sunday, July 17 and the Cubs have the seventh pick in the draft. That’s the highest they’ve chosen since 2014 when they selected Kyle Schwarber in the first round, fourth overall.
In the previous two entries in this series, I profiled Chipola College third baseman Cam Collier and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee. I believe the Cubs will take whichever one of these players who falls to them at number seven. However, there are some scenarios where both of these players are gone by the time the Cubs pick. In that case, that means that someone else who was expected to go earlier has fallen to the seventh pick. And one player who might fall is Mays HS (Atlanta, GA) left-handed hitting shortstop Termarr Johnson.
Johnson is perhaps the most unique top draft prospect in a decade. At 5’8” and 190 pounds, he’s not a very imposing figure. But he stands tall at the plate. Johnson has some of the best bat skills that scouts have ever seen out of a high school player. Some say he’s the best hitter to come out of high school since Joe Mauer back in 2001. He’s shown the ability to handle mid-90s heat at showcase events and he can recognize off-speed stuff and line it to left field. Scouts put a future 70 (on the 20-80 scale) and a few even think he could be a future 80. That’s a grade reserved for Wade Boggs, Ichiro, Tony Gwynn, Albert Pujols and other Hall-of-Famers.
Johnson is also able to get on base with a walk. With his small size and slight crouch on his stance, he doesn’t provide much of a target for opposing pitchers. His eye is also good enough that he doesn’t often get fooled by breaking stuff out of the zone.
It’s not all about making contact and reaching first base with Johnson either. He can hit the ball hard. Johnson packs a lot of muscle in that small frame and can drive the ball for home runs. While he’s probably not going to hit 35 home runs a year as a major leaguer, he can probably hit 20-to-25 home runs a season regularly and occasionally have a season with a few more than that.
Johnson also gets a lot of praise for his work ethic and overall baseball intelligence. Here’s a nice article from MLB dot com that talks about how he’s taken 30 swings with a wooden bat every day since he was three years old. It also has a cute story of how the natural right-handed Johnson ended up batting left-handed. His older brother, who played baseball for Georgia Tech, batted left-handed and young Termarr just thought that was the way you were supposed to do it.
You can also watch the video on that linked-to article where Jim Callis is quoted as comparing Johnson’s plate discipline to Wade Boggs and his plate coverage to Vladimir Guerrero Sr.
If Johnson is so good, then how could he still be on the board when the Cubs pick at number 7? Well, he probably won’t be as he’s been heavily connected to the Marlins if he makes it to their draft spot at number 6. But there are also some downsides to Johnson.
First, Johnson really doesn’t have the arm to play shortstop in the professional ranks. He will probably have to move to second base, where at least he has the hands and lateral quickness for that position. But that limits his usefulness on defense.
Johnson speed is also pretty ordinary. He’s not going to be a force on the basepaths and a move to the outfield is probably pretty iffy as well.
Third, for an 18-year-old high school student, Johnson is pretty much maxed out physically. He’s not going to be able to add anything more to that 5’8” body. There’s not much projection left. If a team is confident in the current scouting reports, that’s not a problem. That will play in the majors. But if the scouting reports are too optimistic, then all of a sudden Johnson becomes a much more ordinary prospect.
Despite his size, Johnson has real star potential. That’s why I don’t think he’ll still be available when the Cubs draft at number seven. But if we assume that Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones (Andruw’s son), Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday (Matt’s son) and Florida high school outfielder Elijah Green (son of NFL tight end Eric) are all gone before the Cubs pick (and those are safe but not guaranteed assumptions), at least one of the next four players is going to have to drop to number seven. I think it’s more likely that Collier or Lee drops to the Cubs, but if both of them are gone, then Johnson is the next most likely to still be on the board. The Cubs are reportedly high on Johnson and would likely grab him if he were available.
Here’s a video of Johnson hitting a home run on a 94 mile per hour fastball in a showcase event last year. It’s an impressive swing. The bat speed through the zone is obvious and the ball just exploded off his bat.
This is a fascinating video where Johnson breaks down his swing.