While the White Sox are thrilled to see Gordon Beckham break out of his slump like he did on Tuesday night going 4 for 5 against the Cubs, they’re also paying close attention to second base prospect Micah Johnson who is shredding Double-A pitching for the Birmingham Barons. So much so that Buddy Bell, the White Sox vice president of player development says that Johnson is close to being promoted to Triple-A-Charlotte.
“When the time is right, which could be fairly soon, we need to do that. We need to challenge him a bit,” Bell told Comcast SportsNet.
But promoting Johnson to Triple-A isn’t as easy as it looks.
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The White Sox are very pleased with Carlos Sanchez, their current Triple-A second baseman who’s batting .282 and has played airtight defense in the field. Meanwhile, Johnson is leading the Southern League with a .344 batting average. He also has a .432 OBP with 3 home runs and 15 RBIs from the leadoff spot.
“We’re going to have to be creative. We’re going to have to do something. That’s something we talk about,” Bell said about promoting Johnson. “This kid has moved up through the ranks and continues to get better. We want to keep challenging him as well.”
A promotion to Triple-A would do just that.
“I know that Kenny [Williams], Rick [Hahn] and myself believe that guys with his kind of makeup, we don’t think they necessarily have to go to Triple-A, but ideally that’s a place to be,” Bell said. “I don’t particularly love the Triple-A game. It’s boring, it’s slow, bitter guys play all the time and they show it, unfortunately. But they do see [pitchers throw] hard and soft. Guys that can kind of mess with you. They can throw something hard and throw something soft. They really know how to pitch more than the guys in Double-A. The guys in Double-A might be more talented and have more stuff, but these guys in Triple-A have a pretty good idea of how to go back and forth with you.”
You won’t hear the White Sox go back and forth about Johnson. They rave about him, so much so that they invited him this past winter to SoxFest, a rarity for a minor leaguer.
“We know exactly where he’s at. We know what he’s doing. He just continues to get better,” Bell said about Johnson. “Aside from being very athletic, as athletic as anyone we have in the system, he’s a ballplayer on top of it. You don’t see that too often. Beckham is like that. Micah is in that same category. He runs obviously better than Beckham does. He has a really great feel for what’s going on.”
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With this logjam of White Sox second basemen(which can also include Marcus Semien and Leury Garcia), the team will eventually have to make some sort of trade (or trades) to free up space and acquire help in other areas on the diamond. That’s just common baseball business sense.
Asked if he could see Johnson being called up to the majors this season, Bell said, "I think that’s realistic.”
What does that mean for Beckham? It’s too soon to tell.
What we do know is that Johnson continues to impress, and at some point in the future he’ll be given an opportunity at the major league level to show what he can do.
“This is all competition more or less,” Bell said. “[Johnson] has certainly upheld his end of the bargain.”