Don’t forget about Boston Red Sox prospect Brian Johnson


This season gave us an encouraging look at the future of the Boston Red Sox rotation. While we only saw a brief glimpse of Brian Johnson at the major league level, he remains a bright spot in the organization.

After watching the likes of Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens blossom before our eyes, it’s easy to forget that Johnson was the most dominant of that trio during their time together in Pawtucket. Johnson was 9-6 with a 2.53 ERA and 90 strikeouts over 96 innings for the PawSox this season, making a case for being arguably the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox system.

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Johnson made his big league debut in a spot start against the Houston Astros on July 21, surrendering 4 runs over 4.1 innings. The result wasn’t what we were hoping for, but there were encouraging signs from that outing, including a stretch where Johnson retired 8 straight batters.

Unfortunately, Johnson wasn’t given the opportunity to build on that outing. He lasted only two more starts following his return to Pawtucket before being shut down for the season due to elbow discomfort. As exciting as it was for him to watch his rookie teammates succeed in the majors, Johnson couldn’t shake the feeling that he should have been there with them.

"“To watch the success of my teammates coming up was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever watched,” Johnson told’s Rob Bradford. “But yeah, it was upsetting. It was very upsetting. I wanted to be there. It was legitimately upsetting. Obviously I was happy for them, but I wish I could have been up there. I fought for a long time to take two weeks off and start throwing again. But that’s not the way it works.”"

It didn’t happen as quickly as he would have liked, but Johnson has now resumed throwing after an MRI revealed that there was no ligament damage. Doctors told him that the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow looked like he “hadn’t even pitched” before, which was great news because it meant avoiding surgery that would have sidelined him significantly longer.

"“It’s funny because playing catch it feels weird because it’s almost eight weeks from throwing a baseball. It was throwing with no discomfort and it was kind of weird. Now the days I don’t throw I get kind of upset when I go to the field.”"

The 24-year old is playing catch five days a week now and plans to follow his normal offseason routine to prepare to start spring training on time in February.

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Johnson should be ready to go this spring, but there’s no guarantee that the Red Sox will have an open spot in the rotation for him. Rodriguez and Owens have a leg up on him given their success this season. A healthy Clay Buchholz should be a lock to have his team option picked up, while Rick Porcello‘s hefty contract likely forces the Red Sox to give him another shot if they can’t find a way to dump him this winter. Boston is also expected to attempt to acquire an ace through free agency or trade to anchor their staff. That’s enough to fill the rotation without even factoring in Wade Miley or Joe Kelly, both of whom may currently be ahead of Johnson in the pecking order.

Unless the Red Sox ship out some of their surplus at the back of the rotation in their efforts to upgrade the front end, there probably won’t be room for Johnson to begin the season. He’s likely to begin next season back in Pawtucket, but if he returns to the form he was at before the injury then it shouldn’t take him long to work his way back up.