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Prospect Johnson among non-roster invitees

Prospect Johnson among non-roster invitees

CHICAGO -- Micah Johnson became a fast-rising prospect in 2013 via a Minor League-best 84 stolen bases, a .312 combined batting average and a .373 combined on-base percentage between stops at Class A Kannapolis, Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham.

Some around the White Sox organization even thought the 23-year-old had a chance to break camp with the South Siders at the outset of the 2014 campaign. Offseason reshaping moves made by general manager Rick Hahn and surgery to reposition a nerve in Johnson's right elbow put those big league dreams on the back burner.

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But Johnson will have a chance to prove his mettle as one of 21 non-roster invitees to Spring Training, invites which were announced Tuesday by the White Sox. The ninth-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft understandably has work to do both offensively and defensively, but he also understands how his speed game best suits the organization.

"It's like, 'OK, let's look at what I can do to help the team,' and that was to get on base and steal," Johnson told MLB.com of the thought process behind his 2013 campaign during an Arizona Fall League interview. "Not for my personal statistics, but steal to score runs.

"That's what I was able to do with [106] some runs. I was able to get on base, and it was easier for the guys behind me to hit a ground ball or pop fly and I score. That's when I accepted that I'm going to try to get on base any way possible. If I hit a hard ground ball to shortstop with two strikes and beat it out, I can steal second and third and that's an RBI and a run right there."

Ten other players from the White Sox system will join Johnson at Major League Spring Training. That list includes right-hander Chris Bassitt, right-hander Chris Beck, right-hander Cody Winiarski, left-hander Scott Snodgress, catcher Miguel Gonzalez, catcher Kevan Smith, first baseman Mike McDade, first baseman Andy Wilkins, outfielder Blake Tekotte and outfielder Keenyn Walker.

Familiar faces such as right-hander Dylan Axelrod, right-hander Brian Omogrosso, left-hander David Purcey and catcher Hector Gimenez, who all saw some time with the White Sox last season, are on this non-roster list of 21 through Minor League contracts. Johnson might be the most interesting candidate of the group with his raw talent, and he will focus on what he needs to do to succeed.

"Just more work. That's what I'm looking at," said Johnson of what he needs to do to get to the next level. "The results don't mean much to me right now. I want to put more work in and get better, and the big leagues is the goal: Not to be the best in the Fall League or Double-A. The big leagues is the goal."

"I'll tell you what, the more you are around him, the more you really like the kid," said White Sox director of player development Nick Capra of MLB.com's 16th-ranked White Sox prospect. "He's one of our best students of the game. He listens. He learns. He knows himself. He knows what he's capable of doing, what he's not capable of doing. That's what makes him such a special kid."

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.

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