Johnson steals three bases on perfect night

White Sox prospect goes 2-for-2 with three walks in Barons' victory

Micah Johnson ranks second in the Southern League in batting and on-base percentage. (Tony Farlow/Four Seam Images)

By Josh Jackson / | April 20, 2014 1:08 AM ET

Micah Johnson knows how to show himself a good time on a Saturday night.

"Stealing for me is an adrenaline rush," he said. "It's always [a feeling of] excitement for me when I steal."

The White Sox fourth-ranked prospect stole three bases, reached in all five of his plate appearances -- singling twice and drawing three walks -- and knocked in a run in Double-A Birmingham's 5-4 win over visiting Tennessee.

"Any way I can get on base is positive. It just happened to be hits and walks [Saturday]," Johnson said. "I would take an error or two and get on and steal that way, too. But it's always a good thing to get on base a lot."

Two of the 23-year-old second baseman's thefts were of third base as he led double-steals with No. 7 White Sox prospect Trayce Thompson in both the first and third innings. Neither of the two attempts was suggested by the Barons coaching staff.

"Actually, those were all me. Anytime I steal, it's on me," Johnson said. "[The White Sox] have confidence in my knowledge of the game and they're comfortable in me knowing when I should steal. I knew Trayce was watching me, too, and I knew what kind of lead he has. And he made it both times, too."

In the second, Johnson singled in a run but was picked off first base to end the inning.

"Every pitcher wants to be quick. I got picked off just being dumb," the Indiana University product said. "It's a competition, like a chess game. For [pitchers], it's a thrill to pick me off."

Even though he lost that matchup, he appreciated the cumulative effect of the Barons' running game. After he singled in the seventh off P.J. Francescon, the reliever's errant pickoff attempt sent Johnson scampering.

"We had six steals as a team. When you can do that, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. It takes a toll on all of them -- the pitchers, the defense and the coaches, too," he said. "[Because of that], the pitcher was trying to be quick and made a bad throw and I ended up at third base. "

The three steals doubled Johnson's season total. He totaled 84 thefts in 110 attempts across three levels last year but suggested he doesn't necessarily plan to match those numbers in 2014.

"This year, it's not about the quantity of steals, it's about quality," he said. "Last year in [Class A], you have to make a name for yourself and get yourself out there. You'll steal third with two outs and stuff just to get your count up, be selfish.

"Now, I'm being smarter. A lot of teams will throw fastballs when I'm on because they don't want me to run on a curveball. So, OK, I'm learning to stay on first if it means our two and three hitters are going to see all fastballs. A hundred, 80 steals is not the goal; the goal is to get steals that matter."

A similarly smarter-not-harder mentality has helped him reach base in over 47 percent of his plate appearances this season.

"I put myself in position to hit a fastball or a curve or a changeup in any count. I'm not going to guess, so I'm always in position to hit whatever they throw me," Johnson said. "They're not going to catch me off-balance, I'm able to sit back and hit curve back up the middle. I'll take a weak little hit -- that's how I got on base. If a guy is throwing two-seamers, I'm not looking to take him out of the park. I'm looking to hit ground balls past the shortstop and the third baseman."

White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham, rehabbing an oblique injury, served as the Barons' designated hitter and socked a two-run, ground-rule double.

Tennessee's Kris Bryant,'s No. 9 overall prospect, doubled and scored a run.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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