Chicago Cubs MLB Draft Profile: Termarr Johnson
The MLB Draft is on Sunday, July 17, and the Cubs have the seventh pick in the draft. It’s the highest they’ve gone since 2014 when they selected Kyle Schwarber in the first round, fourth overall.
In the previous two entries in this series, I featured Chipola College third baseman Cam Collier and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee. I believe the Cubs will take whoever drops to seventh. However, there are certain scenarios where these two players are gone when the Cubs choose. In this case, that means someone else who was supposed to leave earlier has dropped to seventh. And one player who could go down is left-handed Mays HS (Atlanta, GA) hitting shortstop Termarr Johnson.
Johnson is perhaps the most unique draft prospect in a decade. At 5’8″ and 190 pounds, he’s not a very imposing figure. But he stands straight in front of the plate. Johnson has some of the best batting skills scouts have ever seen in a high school player. Some say he’s the best hitter to come out of high school since Joe Mauer in 2001. He showed his ability to handle the heat of the mid-90s at showcase events and he can recognize off-speed tricks and line them up. in left field. Scouts put a future 70 (on the 20-80 scale) and a few even think it might be a future 80. That’s a rating reserved for Wade Boggs, Ichiro, Tony Gwynn, Albert Pujols and other Hall-of-Famers.
Johnson is also able to walk to base. With his small stature and slightly crouched stance, he doesn’t provide much target for opposing throwers. His eye is also good enough that he doesn’t often get fooled into smashing stuff out of the area.
It’s also not about making contact and getting to first base with Johnson. He can hit the ball hard. Johnson packs a lot of muscle into that small frame and can drive the ball for home runs. While he probably won’t hit 35 homers a year as a major leaguer, he can probably consistently hit 20-25 homers a season and sometimes have a season with a little more than that.
Johnson also receives a lot of praise for his work ethic and overall baseball intelligence. Here’s a nice article from MLB dot com that tells how he’s taken 30 swings with a wooden bat every day since he was three years old. He also has a cute story about how the natural right-hander Johnson ended up hitting with his left hand. His older brother, who played baseball for Georgia Tech, batted with his left hand, and young Termarr thought that was the way you were supposed to do it.
You can also watch the video on this linked article where Jim Callis is quoted as comparing Johnson’s plate discipline to Wade Boggs and his plate coverage to Vladimir Guerrero Sr.
If Johnson is so good, then how could he still be on the board when the Cubs pick No. 7? Well, he probably won’t because he’s been heavily linked with the Marlins if he makes it to their draft spot at number 6. But there are downsides for Johnson too.
First, Johnson really doesn’t have the arm to play shortstop in the pro ranks. He will probably have to move to second base, where at least he has the hands and the side quickness for that position. But that limits his usefulness in defense.
Johnson’s speed is also fairly ordinary. He won’t be a force on the base paths and a move to the outfield is probably pretty uncertain as well.
Third, for an 18-year-old high schooler, Johnson is about at his peak physically. He won’t be able to add anything more to that 5’8″ body. There isn’t much projection left. If a team is confident in the current scouting reports, that’s no problem. It will play in the majors. But if the reconnaissance reports are too optimistic, then suddenly Johnson becomes a much more ordinary prospect.
Despite his size, Johnson has real star potential. That’s why I don’t think he’ll still be available when the Cubs draft seventh overall. But if we assume that Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones (Andruw’s son), Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday (Matt’s son) and Florida high school outfielder Elijah Green (son of NFL tight end Eric) are all gone before the Cubs choose (and these are safe but not guaranteed assumptions) at least one of the next four players will have to move up to number seven. I think he Collier or Lee are more likely to fall to the Cubs, but if both are gone, then Johnson is next most likely to still be on the board. The Cubs would be high on Johnson and likely grab him if he was available.
Here’s a video of Johnson hitting a home run on a 94-mile-per-hour fastball at a showpiece event last year. It’s an impressive swing. The speed of the bat into the zone is evident and the ball has just exploded from his bat.
It’s a fascinating video where Johnson breaks down his swing.