Before the season began, even Micah Johnson didn't consider himself much of a base-stealer. Now he's scampered all the way to Double-A.
The No. 15 White Sox prospect made his debut with Double-A Birmingham on Thursday and collected three clean hits out of the leadoff spot in a 7-2 loss to Montgomery.
"It's always nice to get three hits, especially at this point in the season. [I was] just trying to put the bat on the ball and found some holes," Johnson said. "[Getting to Double-A] is fun, it just means you're on the right track. But I just play every day, don't really think about it. Every day's a new day, it's just baseball."
Johnson has had a breakout year at the plate this year, building on some offensive skills he showed with Rookie-level Great Falls last year.
What he's done with his speed, though, would have been pretty hard to predict. Specifically the fact that he leads all of the Minor Leagues with 83 steals, eight more than top Reds prospect Billy Hamilton.
The second baseman, taken in the ninth round of the 2012 Draft out of Indiana, started the season Class A Kannapolis where he began the year.
"I never really stole bases before this season, so that's kind of new," he said. "I didn't learn anything in the offseason, just started stealing and once you start, you just keep doing it, I guess. It's just a work in progress -- your leads, your jumps. It's all the times I've been thrown out that helped me become a better one."
He has, in fact, gotten better as the season's gone along. He hasn't been thrown out in any of his last nine attempts at swiping a bag, all of which came with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem.
"I've had stretches this year where I was thrown out three or four times in a row, and you learn from it. At this point in the season, I feel really comfortable when I'm stealing. At first, I was just kind of going and reacting and just beating throws, but now, say, a lefty comes in slide-stepping ... I know what to do against that," he said. "It's just been that learning process all season long, and hopefully, I can keep doing it year in and year out now."
The 22-year-old worked his way up the White Sox prospect ranks by also flashing a potent bat this year. Last season with the Voyagers, he hit .273/.375/.391, showing a nice ability to get on base but little pop.
This year he's added some of that. Between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, he batted .315/.378/.460 with seven homers, 15 triples and 24 doubles in 126 games.
"Hitting's always been hitting for me, there's no science behind how I hit. I can't really tell you my approach," he noted. "If they throw a strike, if it's there for me, I'll put it in play. I've always been like that, keeping everything simple.
"[The success] is always a good thing, it just shows how hard we worked in the offseason, me and my trainers and everybody else. It's just a testament to everyone at instructs with us in the fall, they changed my stance out there. My infield instructor is still working with me every day to get better at that. It makes me proud to see that everybody put in the work with you and you're performing, cause they dedicated their time to you and it paid off."