For Termarr Johnson, his 2023 season didn’t begin how he would have hoped.
The 2022 fourth-overall pick’s first full professional season began on the injured list after he strained his right hamstring during Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training in March.
Johnson, considered the Pirates’ top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, finally made his return to action with the Low-A Bradenton Marauders on Apr. 21. He finished his season debut 1 for 2 with two RBIs and a walk.
Maybe expectedly, Johnson got off to a bit of a slow start in his return to game action after a fairly lengthy absence while recovering from his hamstring injury.
Now, Johnson is seemingly finding his footing and is showing what made the Pirates use their first-round selection on him one year ago.
“He basically didn’t have a spring training, so the first couple, three weeks he was in Bradenton were sort of his spring training. The last couple weeks we’re seeing the at-bats continue to get better,” general manager Ben Cherington said.
Things are starting to click for the 18-year-old Johnson in the month of May. Through 20 games this month, Johnson is hitting .284 (19 for 67) with a .415 on-base percentage. Perhaps the most encouraging sign of growth this month is that he’s hitting the ball with more authority.
“He’s starting to impact the ball more, hit the ball in the air more. He’s working really hard. He’s making strides defensively. We think he’s in a good spot,” Cherington said.
While Johnson is hitting for average and getting on base, one element to his game that hasn’t necessarily shown up yet is the power.
Johnson has only four extra-base hits so far this season — three doubles and one home run. His ISO currently sits at .071. Even so, the Pirates believe he has power in the bat and it will come as he continues to develop.
“He’s got raw power. Some of hitting home runs is simply what pitches you swing at. He’s certainly taking chances to get the barrel out front, get the ball in the air. That’s something that he’s experiencing in professional baseball while playing every day for the first time and adjusting to that. He’s got all the qualities to hit for power,” said Cherington.
Johnson’s best tool is his hit tool. So much so that he was compared to the likes of Wade Boggs and Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and was described as one of the best pure prep hitters in decades as a draft prospect last season.
The native of Mays, Georgia stands at only 5-feet-8-inches tall, but his bat speed and hitting approach leads to his smaller frame possessing impact-power potential. Pipeline rates his power as a ’60’ on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
Johnson is a big part of the Pirates’ future. He has the chance to be an impact player for a long time at the big league level, whenever that day comes.
Until then, he will look to continue to keep improving in his first full professional season. The Pirates know they have a high-upside youngster in their latest first-round pick.
“He’s an important young player for us. He’ll get a chance to play a ton in his first professional season. We’re excited to see him,” Cherington said.