Pierce Johnson ready to make some noise with Cubs

Pierce Johnson ready to make some noise with Cubs
May 19, 2014, 11:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

Pierce Johnson knows what's at stake during this Cubs rebuild.

The 23-year-old understands his right arm is key to the organizational success as the price of pitching skyrockets around the league.

But while Johnson and fellow righty C.J. Edwards get most of the attention from prospect evaluators, Johnson feels the Cubs have more than just a couple of good arms.

"The whole system is full of talent right now," he told Mick Gillispie of Smokies on the Radio. "Everybody's underestimated us pitching-wise. We're gonna make some noise here in the coming years at the top."

As far as prospects go, the "Big Four" - Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora - dominate the headlines in the Cubs system, but Johnson has made some noise of his own since the Cubs made him the 43rd overall pick in the 2012 Draft.

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In his first full season in professional baseball in 2013, Johnson put up an 11-6 record with a 2.74 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. He finished the season with Advanced Class-A Daytona, going 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA to help the D-Cubs win the Florida State League Championship.

But Johnson's 2014 got off to a delayed start, as a hamstring injury kept him in spring training longer than normal. He said that while disappointing, the injury was just a minor setback and he couldn't wait to arrive at Double-A Tennessee.

"The competition is better here, so I was excited to get here," he told Gillispie. "Plus, the team here is phenmonal. The coaching staff is just as good...I'm just excited to be here."

The results haven't been as sharp as Johnson would have hoped in Tennessee. In five games - four starts - he is 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA and 1.77 WHIP, allowing a whopping 22 walks in 22.2 innings.

The lack of control is disconcerting, especially considering he walked only 46 batters in the first 129.1 innings of his Cubs career.

Before the season, Johnson was ranked among the Top 10 prospects in the Cubs system, coming in as high as sixth on Baseball America's rankings.

Most players claim they don't pay any attention to top prospect rankings, but don't count Johnson among that group.

"I think it's a little more pressure than anything," Johnson admitted. "You're under a microscope more than other people. It's an honor to be put on that list with everybody else, but it's great."

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The 6-foot-3 Missouri State product knows he can't get ahead of himself looking down the road at his potential big-league career. He's playing alongside Bryant and Soler in Double-A, but understands there are no guarantees.

"I don't [have a timeframe for when I'll be in the majors]. I hope to be there as soon as I can to help the team," Johnson said. "I'm just working on a lot of things and hopefully, it all comes together and I can get there quickly."