Southern notes: Johnson driven to succeed

Barons second baseman has eye on big league callup 'this season'

Micah Johnson is hitting .355 with three homers and seven stolen bases in 24 games for the Barons. (Michael Wade)

By Guy Curtright / Special to | April 29, 2014 10:00 AM ET

Micah Johnson stole the spotlight last season with his speed, leading the Minor Leagues by swiping 84 bases across three levels.

The Chicago White Sox's No. 4 prospect has been slowed down a little on the bases this year, but the second baseman has drawn attention another way.

Johnson has had a monster April at the plate, batting .355 through 24 games with a .439 on-base percentage and slugging .516 from his leadoff spot for the Birmingham Barons. The ninth-round pick in the 2012 Draft is hardly surprised with his impressive start, though.

"I haven't really changed anything," the left-handed hitter said. "I just think my start as been a carryover from what I did at the end of last season and during Spring Training."

Johnson hit .368 in the Southern League Playoffs last year after a late-season promotion to Double-A, winning MVP honors as the Barons won the Championship Series over Mobile.

Then Johnson, a non-roster invitee, batted .360 during Spring Training with the White Sox, showing that his game was much more than just speed.

The former University of Indiana standout has had great success wearing a Birmingham uniform, but he enjoyed putting on the White Sox pinstripes even more.

Johnson is determined to get to Chicago as fast as he can.

"I want to get there this season," the 23-year-old said. "That's what drives me. You can't take a day off. You're not going to get called up if you're not doing well."

Johnson likely would be farther along in his baseball journey if it wasn't for injuries. He missed most of his senior year in high school because of a bad left shoulder and a good part of his final season at Indiana because of issues with his right elbow.

Then Johnson had to cut short his stay in the Arizona Fall League last year when the elbow problem cropped up again and a nerve had to be repositioned.

"I don't think it was done right the first time and I was losing feeling in my hand," he said. "Now I'm fine. I didn't lose any arm strength."

Johnson is still a work in progress defensively. He put in extra time with White Sox coach Joe McEwing during Spring Training.

"I was trying to do too much," Johnson said. "That's how I was getting most of my errors."

The Indianapolis native is still aggressive on the bases, though. He's just no longer trying to make a name for himself with stolen bases alone. As you move up, other things become important.

Johnson had seven steals in 10 playoff games for the Barons but was caught six times in his first 13 attempts this year, despite a three-steal game against Tennessee on April 19.

Although Johnson admits that stolen bases are an "adrenaline rush," he is no longer just trying to wow everyone with his speed.

"My job is to get on base," said Johnson, who had two hits and three walks in his three-steal game.

The Indianapolis native is disciplined at the plate, shown by his 13 walks. But he isn't a slap hitter.

Johnson hit a key home run in the Barons' championship-clinching victory last season and has already gone deep three times this year.

It is also an asset on and off the field for Johnson that he speaks fluent Spanish after an immersion school program growing up.

Being bilingual could be helpful if Johnson reaches his long-term career goal. After he is done playing, Johnson would like to be a Major League general manager.

"Why not shoot for the top," he said. "I don't believe in putting limits on yourself."

In brief

Edwards on shelf: Tennessee right-hander C.J. Edwards, the Chicago Cubs' No. 4 prospect, is expected to be sidelined at least a month because of inflammation in his shoulder, but an MRI revealed no structural damage. The No. 40 prospect on's Top 100 list was 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in four starts for the Smokies. Right-hander Pierce Johnson, who missed the start of the season after hamstring problems in Spring Training, was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA after two outings and had 12 walks in eight innings. He is the Cubs' No. 7 prospect and ranked No. 100 on the overall list.

Simmons perfect: Mississippi right-hander Shae Simmons hasn't allow a run over 11 1/3 innings in his first nine relief appearances, saving five games. He has allowed just six hits and two walks. Simmons, Atlanta's No. 19 prospect, appeared in 50 games last year for Class A Rome and Mississippi, saving 24 games while compiling a 1.69 ERA. He had 82 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings.

Setback for Garvin: Montgomery left-hander Grayson Garvin, coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2012, had to leave after facing three batters in his fourth start and was put on the disabled list with a strained back muscle near his shoulder. Tampa Bay's No. 20 prospect allowed just six hits and a run over nine while striking out 13 in his first three outings. "It's not his shoulder or elbow, which is a good thing," manager Brady Williams said.

Guy Curtright 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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