Johnson heads list of White Sox AFL prospects

Johnson heads list of White Sox AFL prospects

CHICAGO -- Micah Johnson was known as a prospect on the rise within the White Sox organization prior to his breakout 2013 campaign.

Now, the ninth-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft will have his skills challenged even more with a move to Double-A Birmingham for the end of the current campaign and an assignment to the Arizona Fall League. Johnson, 22, joins fellow infielder Marcus Semien and pitchers Charlie Leesman, Chris Bassitt, Kevin Vance and Stephen McCray as the White Sox representatives on the Glendale Desert Dogs.

One more position player still needs to be added to the Desert Dogs' roster by the White Sox.

Johnson, ranked 15th on MLB.com's Top 20 Prospects for the White Sox, has a .313 average with 103 runs scored, 24 doubles, 15 triples, six homers, 54 RBIs and an astounding 83 stolen bases to lead the Minor Leagues between stops at Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem. According to White Sox director of player development Nick Capra, Johnson could be a big league contributor by 2015.

"He jumped up on the radar last year with his athleticism and the things he can do," Capra told MLB.com of Johnson during a phone interview. "He reinforced what we were thinking last year with the kind of year this year.

"Obviously, he kind of shot fast through the organization. This kid has a chance to be an impact player at the top of the lineup, and wreak havoc on the bases with his speed. But he still has a lot to learn offensively and defensively."

Leesman, who made one start for the White Sox this year, will be working out of the bullpen in Arizona and picking up lost innings caused by knee surgery at the end of last season. McCray will work as a starter, standing as a talented player the White Sox "need to find about." Bassitt, who is 11-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 144 innings over 25 starts combined for Winston-Salem and Birmingham, will pitch out of the bullpen.

"An interesting kid," said Capra of Bassitt. "With his sink, he profiles for our ballpark."

Semien, ranked No. 8 on the club's Top 20, has scored 105 runs between stops at Triple-A Charlotte and Birmingham and is all but certain to have big league experience through a September callup before he goes to the AFL. But it's Johnson who stands as the most interesting prospect, featuring an immense amount of talent but plenty of the normal prospect improvement to make such as handling the routine plays defensively and getting an even better read of the strike zone.

"You never know what he's going to do," said White Sox top-ranked prospect Courtney Hawkins of Johnson. "He might bunt and steal second and third, or hit a bomb. He's great fun to watch."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.