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The Blue Jays recently fielded a lineup with six first round draft picks, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, Alex Rios, Russ Adams, Aaron Hill and Gabe Gross. There is another first round draftee playing in New Hampshire who would love to play for the Blue Jays, first baseman Clint Johnston.

Johnston was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round in 1998, 15th overall. Johnston was a two way player in college for Vanderbilt, playing first base and right field, and, when needed, coming in to close out games. Shaun Marcum filled a similar role for Southwest Missouri State where he played shortstop and was the closer. When the Pirates drafted Johnston in 1998 they told him they wanted him to pitch. Johnston gives a scouting report on himself. "I was a lefty who threw hard. I didn't pitch a whole lot before I was drafted, I played in the field and would come in to close games. I don't think I ever threw more than forty innings in college. I threw hard, had a decent change-up and a pretty good slider. I didn't have a whole lot of experience pitching but the Pirates thought a power arm from the left side was worth a number one pick."

Johnston was assigned to the South Atlantic League after the draft and had good numbers. In 16 games, Johnston had a 2.75 ERA, 6.4 hits per 9 innings and 10.4 K's per 9. His walks were a little high at 4.9/9. Those numbers look like a hard throwing pitcher, perhaps a little wild. Johnston went back to the sally league in 1999 but began to have some arm problems. In 1999 Johnston pitched 93 innings, in 2000 37 innings and in 2001 20 innings. Because Johnston had been injured so much, the Pirates felt safe in leaving Johnston on their AA roster at the end of 2001. The Blue Jays spotted Johnston and drafted him in the minor league portion of the rule 5 draft and put him on their AAA roster. "The Pirates phoned me to tell me I had been selected by the Blue Jays, I didn't even know there was a rule 5 draft, so I called my agent and left a message. He called back and said I think the Jays want you as a hitter." I asked Tony LaCava, the Blue Jays Director of Player Personnel, who in the Blue Jays office decided to make Johnston switch? "In the 1998 draft several teams would have selected Clint as a hitter, shortly after the Pirates selected him as a pitcher. In the Jays office several of us remembered that Clint was a great hitter in college."

I wondered if Clint was disappointed to switch. "I was actually pretty excited. I had just come off what I felt were two wasted seasons where I had elbow surgery and then strained my ulnar nerve the next year, I was tired of being hurt. I like pitching a lot, but when I wasn't pitching I was just miserable being in uniform but not on the field. I knew, after four years off, it would be pretty tough going back to rookie ball and working your way back up."

The Jays assigned Johnston to Auburn for 2002 where he hit .242 with a .344 OBP and a .352 SLG. But Johnston injured his ankle and missed time and in 2003 he tore his ACL and had to go on the DL again. "Last year was my first full season where I played from spring training all the way through to the end. That was a good season to get my 500 at-bats and get into a routine every day."

As a 1998 draftee Johnston was a free agent after 2004 but came back when the Jays told him he would be playing in Dunedin. "The FSL is a great place to play, the travel is good, you play in really nice stadiums, the only problem is there are no crowds there." Was he surprised to be called up so soon? I was hoping to get called up sometime this season. When you start a season you always want to be called up at some point, and I had gotten off to a really good start. I was a little surprised that it was as early as it was." Johnston hit .310 in 42 games for Dunedin before his promotion. Since being promoted Johnston is hitting .380, with a .446 OBP and a .640 SLG. It looks like the AA pitchers are not proving to be much different from A ball. "They don't throw any harder, they are around the plate more, the quality of the pitches is better, and they try to get to chase pitches that are pretty close to the strike zone. You really have to know your strike zone better up here, you have to lay off those pitches."

At the end of the year Clint will likely be a free agent unless the Jays place him on the 40 man roster. Johnston is old for a prospect, he will be 28 next month. Has he finally found his batting stroke, or is he having his career year at age 28? The Jays will have to figure that out before the end of the season.
Clint Johnston, Pitcher or Hitter? | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
PeterG - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 11:18 AM EDT (#119916) #
Despite his age, Clint might get consideration for the 40 man as he seems to be improving at a rapid rate. If he keeps hitting this well for the entire season, he would be worth a September call-up in order to get a further read on him so as to help with the roster decision. Normally, you don't add someone of this age to the 40 man but this is a special case. He is much younger in terms of hitting experience and has been hampered with injuries in the past. The Jays cannot afford to overlook any potential power bat from the minor league system.
R Billie - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 11:49 AM EDT (#119919) #
I don't think the Jays have much choice but to add Johnston assuming things go well the rest of the year. I have a feeling Tablado will be traded after his really tough season to date so that might open a spot right there.
Thomas - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 12:17 PM EDT (#119925) #
I agree. He's at the weak end of the defensive spectrum, but the Jays can't ignore anybody with offensive potential, as has been said. He's old and he's going to have to hit at Triple-A (which I think he'll see before the end of the year), but I'd try to find a spot for him on the 40-man as long as he keeps hitting.
Marc Hulet - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 12:32 PM EDT (#119927) #
I don't think Johnston will be added. Look at the other names that need to be protected this offseason:

Rule 5 eligible
Most likely to be protected (or claimed):
Josh Banks
Shaun Marcum
Kurt Isenberg
Jamie Vermilyea
Ryan Roberts
Robinzon Diaz
Ryan Houston

Brian Patrick
Brad Mumma
Juan Peralta
Yuber Rodriguez
Brian Grant
Russell Savickas
Eric Arnold
Jason Waugh
John Schneider
David Smith
Jordan De Jong
Brad Hassey
Bubbie Buzachero
Erik Kratz
Carlo Cota
Scott Dragicevich
Justin James
Christian Snavely
Danny Core
Chad Mulholland
Jayce Tingler
Jayson Rodriguez
Matt Foster
Jeremy Harper
Vito Chiaravalloti
Joey Reiman
Jordy Templet
Mark Sopko
Jermy Acey
Brian Reed
Joey Wolfe
Josue Matos
Chris Baker
Spike Lunberg
Matt Whiteside
Mike Nannini
Adrian Burnside
Jesse Carlson
Matt Duff
Julius Matos
Bry Nelson
Jason Alfaro
Anton French
Chad Mottola
Joe Depastino
Danny Solano
Andy Dominique
Anthony Sanders
Justin Miller
Cam Reimers
Lee Gronkiewicz
Rob Cosby
Maikel Jova
Ron Acuna
Jose Umbria
Justin Singleton
Kevin Barker
Ron Davenport
Steve Andrade
Michael Snyder
Tracy Thorpe
Milton Tavarez
Yesson Berroa
Clint Johnston
Manuel Mayorson
Tim Whittaker
Rodney Medina
Juan Perez
Luke Hetherington
David Corrente
Emmanuel Sena
Eugenio Velez

Johnston likely is headed for a PH/Spot Start role should he make the majors and would be much better off in the National League.
sweat - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 12:47 PM EDT (#119929) #
I think the number of guys that will need to ba added shows that the Jays will make some deals, before they lose these guys to rule 5 drafts or minor league FA's.
Mike Green - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 01:57 PM EDT (#119939) #
Marc, Davis Romero needs to be added or else he'll be a 6 year free-agent, right?

Johnston would have to absolutely mash in double and triple A to be considered for 40 man roster inclusion. After a fairly mediocre low-A year in 2004 (slugging under .430) at age 27, projecting him to be able to hit major league pitching requires more than 2 months evidence at high A and double A. It might happen, but Chip Cannon, for instance, is a much better bet.
Marc Hulet - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 02:12 PM EDT (#119941) #
Actually, I'm not sure. You need to have played six full seasons in the minors to be declared a minor league free agent, so the year a player signs and gets 50-60 games in at short season ball doesn't count.

Including this year, Romero has spent six years in the minors but I don't know if
A) A season in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) counts or
B) If a season spent in short season counts if you were signed before the year started and spent the first half in extended spring training.

Romero spent two years in the DSL and two years in short season ball. He was eligible for the Rule 5 last year though, but that eligibility includes part seasons after signing and the DSL.

It would be an interesting question to ask BA or Dick Scott or another Jays official in the know.
PeterG - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 02:31 PM EDT (#119943) #
I don't think Isenberg needs to be protected nor will he be claimed - same for Houston. I agree that more evidence is needed to consider Johnston but if that evidence is there in the next 2 months, age should not be such a predominant factor. Same for Cosby. He is one guy off Marc's list that might need consideration. As for Romero, no-one would claim him in Rule 5 though he could be signed elsewhere as a minor league FA if he is one. As has been suggested, some prospects will need to be included in trades as there isn't room to protect everyone.
XooM - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 03:03 PM EDT (#119946) #
Wow, so what you guys are saying is that everyone on that list are all eligible to be selected in the minor league portion of the draft? How many of them can the Jays protect anyway? At first glance there's quite a lot of good players in the mix.
Marc Hulet - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 03:19 PM EDT (#119950) #
The Jays can protect 40 players in total... but that also must include the current 25 man MLB roster, as well as other minor leaguers already on the 40 man roster like Ismael Ramirez, Raul Tablado and Francisco Rosario. So the Jays will likely have 7-8 spots open, at most, for those players I listed above.

Paul D - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 03:38 PM EDT (#119952) #
Why would the Jays protect Tablado?

Is he really a better prospect than those mentioned in your list?
Marc Hulet - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 03:52 PM EDT (#119953) #
When the Jays protected Tablado last year, he was doing really well... added power, good average, etc. But if they take him off now (designate him for assignment) someone would likely claim him, and option him to their double-A affiliate... He has three option years left and significant potential despite his early season struggles.
Paul D - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 05:34 PM EDT (#119957) #
But if they take him off now (designate him for assignment)

Ah, I wasn't thinking like that. I was thinking of the Jays adding him to the roster, thinking that there was no risk of him being picked up in the Rule V. My mistake.

PeterG - Friday, June 17 2005 @ 06:27 PM EDT (#119959) #
Well then, the best thing to do is to include Tablado in a trade and that is probably what they are thinking. I believe it has been noted already that an Indians scout was tracking him.
XooM - Saturday, June 18 2005 @ 02:30 AM EDT (#119978) #
What about Vito Chiaravalloti? Is he still in the plans?
Clint Johnston, Pitcher or Hitter? | 15 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.