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Cody Johnson’s Resurgence, The Pettitte Effect, Minor League Recap



By Jed Weisberger ~ April 18th, 2012. Filed under: Digest Contributors, Yanks Minors.

Back in 2006, the Atlanta Braves thought they had their slugger of the future in 6-foot-4, 240-pound Cody Johnson.

Atlanta spent its first-round pick on the strapping Johnson, luring the native of Panama City, Fla., away from a scholarship at the University of Florida. Johnson did not disappoint.

In 2007, playing with the Danville Braves of the Appalachian League, Johnson, in 62 games, batted .305 (74-for-243) and hit 17 homers and had 57 RBIs. He was named Baseball America’s Short-Season Player of the Year.

The next two seasons – a 26-homer season with Rome of the South Atlantic League in 2008, and a 32-homer campaign in 2009 with Myrtle Beach of the Class-A Advanced Southern League – brought displays of both power and strikeouts. Johnson fanned 357 times in 255 games.

It was homer or bust, and when he got his first real taste of Double-A in 2010 with Mississippi of the Southern League, he batted just .189 (44-for-233) with 10 homers, 31 RBIs and 114 strikeouts in 75 games.

“I was getting geared up for that one pitch I could hit for power and not taking any consistent approach  at the plate, said Johnson, 23, who struck out 629 times in 1,613 at-bats in the Atlanta system.  As a past first-round pick, he probably hung around longer than most with such statistics.

Atlanta traded Johnson to the Yankees on November 19, 2010, for cash.  His left-side power (Johnson throws right) intrigues the Yankees, who are giving Johnson a chance to avoid turning into a poor-man’s version of Mark Reynolds.

“If the Yankees cam rework what Johnson does at the plate, they really will have gotten something,’’ said a scout from another American League team.  “For what they paid, it’s a great gamble.’’

Johnson’s first season in the Yankees system was a mix. He began with Double-A Trenton and hit .226 (67-for-321) with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 74 games. But the Yankees were not happy with his 138 strikeouts.  Demoted to Class-A Advanced Tampa, with more work devoted to his approach at the plate, he hit .326 (44-for-150) in 39 games with 56 strikeouts.

After a solid spring training, he is getting another shot with Trenton in 2012, where. In nine games, he is batting .355 (11-for-34) with four homers, second in the Eastern League for the 6-6 Thunder.

“I know my power will play anywhere,’’ Johnson said. “If I don’t hit, however, my power won’t mean anything. I’ll be sent home from here as well. I have to develop a consistent approach.’’

So far this season, Johnson is doing just that. He has a trio of multi-hit games as the Thunder DH and is showing the ability take the plethora of off-speed stuff Eastern League pitchers throw at him and go with a pitch.

A line-drive single to right will suffice, especially with runners in scoring position. Continue that approach and the long balls will come.

“What I like in the Yankees system is the coaches really want to work with every player,’’ Johnson said. “They keep working with me and I am listening. It’s a positive atmosphere.’’

Johnson will always strike out a lot. So did Mickey Mantle. But if he can hit .280, drive in 90 runs and stay consistent at the plate, the Yankees will take the strikeouts.  Johnson has a future. He knows what he has to do.

The 2012 season is crucial to him.

THE PETTITTE EFFECT

Andy Pettitte will pitch for Tampa again Friday, which would likely put him in Trenton for a possible start in a 10:35 a.m. game Thursday, April 26.

Already many are trumpeting Pettitte’s May return to the Yankees and which pitcher will be dropped from the starting rotation.  The first question is will Pettitte be the Pettitte of the past. The second answer is whatever pitcher is not performing.

And don’t discount David Phelps from the mix. His 5.1-inning stint vs. the Angels  April 14 was not chopped liver.

AROUND THE YANKEES SYSTEM

Class-A Charleston (9-3) – A four-game winning streak has the RiverDogs atop the South Atlantic South.  The offensive star has been Tyler Austin, who leads the SAL with a .450 (18-for-40) average. Ten of his hits have been for extra bases and three are home runs.  On the pitching side, Jose Campos, obtained in the Jesus Montero trade with Seattle, is bucking for a promotion with a 3-0, 0.56 mark in 16 innings. Campos has allowed just five hits and has a strikeout-walk ratio of 18-4.

Class-A Advanced Tampa (7-5) – The T-Yanks have also won four straight, with Jose Mujica leading the way with a .361 (13-for-36) average with six doubles.  Former Staten Island star Michael O’Brien is 2-0, 0.84 in two appearances and Nik Turley is 1-0, 1.00 in three starts with a strikeout-walk ratio of 20-5.

Class-AA Trenton (6-6) – While Johnson and Ronnier Musteller, batting .349 (15-for-43) are helping lead the offense, Brett Marshall (2-1, 5.40) threw six shutout innings Tuesday night in Erie.  Given that effort was in Erie’s bandbox, homer-happy Jerry Uht Park, that was an accomplishment.

Class-AAA Empire State (4-8) Dewayne Wise might be looking to return to the majors after being named International League Batter of the Week by hitting .458 (11-for-24) with three homers in six games.  The pitching, however, has not been good, with Adam Warren (1-1, 7.45), Manny Banuelos (0-1, 10.13) and Dellin Betances (0-2, 10.38) all struggling in the early going. This club will spend a total of 52 days in Rochester this summer.

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Jed spent 35 years in the newspaper business working as both a writer and editor, in both sports and news under tight deadline pressure. As both sports editor at the Indiana (Pa.) Gazette and a copy editor/columnist at The Times of Trenton, he made daily decisions on overall coverage and designed and produced thousands of pages and special sections. Since accepting a buyout from The Times, he has concentrated on broadening his writing and editing horizons to the medical, academic and business fields. Anyone is welcome to Google Jed to see the different places in print, on the Web and in front of the camera his professional expertise has spread to.

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