CONCORD – Seth Johnson had a solid baseball career at Jay M. Robinson High School before graduating in 2016, but no one who followed the Bulldogs during his time here knew him as a pitcher.
Over the past year, however, Major League Baseball scouts did.
Last Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays made Johnson a professional pitcher, choosing the former Bulldog in the supplemental portion of the first round of the league’s annual draft.
Johnson, who played at Campbell University this past season, was the 40th overall pick, making him the highest Camel ever to be chosen in the MLB draft.
Johnson is a right-hander who has been clocked in the high 90s. Ironically, at Jay M. Robinson, he was an infielder during his varsity career and never pitched for the Bulldogs.
Johnson began his college career the same way.
Lightly recruited, he started out at Louisburg College as a shortstop and got his first chance to take the mound midway through his second season. He made five appearances that year, striking out 11 and walking none over six innings.
Scouts, however, saw his pro potential. And when Johnson transferred to Campbell for his only season, he was considered a big-league prospect as a pitcher. Johnson was the 29th-ranked prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com, while ESPN had him listed 37th.
J.J. Cooper of Baseball America wrote on Twitter that Johnson “is a conversion guy from (shortstop). Wore down a little as season went on, but best should be ahead for him. Athletic pitcher with a clean delivery.”
This past season, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Johnson made 14 appearances, with 11 starts. He went 3-3 with 85 strikeouts in 66.1 innings of work. One of his 2019 highlights came when he fanned eight and threw five no-hit innings during a game at William & Mary, earning him Big South Co-Pitcher of the Week honors. He helped Campbell make a run in the NCAA tournament.
Johnson was steady as an infielder at Jay M. Robinson. He batted just .208 as a senior with the Bulldogs, but he had a fielding percentage of .925 and showed a strong arm when he made throws to first base from shortstop. He was also solid at Louisburg, where he batted .254 with nine home runs and 20 doubles over his two seasons.
The move to the mound, however, paid dividends for Johnson in more ways than one. According to MLB.com, as the 40th overall pick, Johnson can expect to receive a signing bonus of at least $1.86 million.
Those who follow big-league prospects closely believe Johnson will be worth every penny.
Perfect Game USA’s Brian Sakowski wrote on Twitter of Johnson: “Relatively new to pitching, up to 98 mph on the mound with outstanding arm speed, excellent athlete, slider often plus changeup shows 55 (mph). One of the more fascinating upsides in the class.”