Washington Nationals: Daniel Johnson a rising prospect in Nats system

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May 8, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; A Rawlings baseball, the Official Ball of Major League Baseball, sits on the field before a game between Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; A Rawlings baseball, the Official Ball of Major League Baseball, sits on the field before a game between Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports /
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Washington Nationals outfield prospect Daniel Johnson has been red hot at the plate in June for Low-A Hagerstown

Last year, the Washington Nationals selected outfielder Daniel Johnson Jr. with their fifth round pick in the MLB Draft. In his time with Short-Season Auburn, he hit one home run in 62 games. Now that he’s moved up one level, the power has emerged in the South Atlantic League.

With the Hagerstown Suns this season, Johnson has 16 home runs, which leads the SAL in that category. He was named to the SAL North division All-Star team earlier this month and has picked up where he left off in the first half of the season.

In the month of June, the 21-year-old (turns 22 on July 11) is hitting .330 with six home runs and 16 RBI’s. Heading into tonight’s game against Delmarva, he has five straight multi-hit games (13-for-26) to start the second half of the year and three of them are three-hit games.

Johnson has been one of the biggest surprises in the Washington Nationals farm system this year and has been one of the centerpieces of a Hagerstown offense that has been excellent even with Carter Kieboom and Juan Soto on the disabled list.

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Last week, I had the chance to talk with Kevin Gehl, who is the voice of the Hagerstown Suns, about the team’s first half. From our interview with him, here’s some of what he had to say about Johnson:

"“He’s morphed into this guy that you can’t seem to get out. He has that awesome power to right field and it’s fun to watch.”"

For those who have seen Johnson play live, his power has been the story and he has showed it in every part of the Hagerstown lineup. Earlier this season, he was hitting ninth in the batting order and has since moved up to second or third. Here is what Ryan Sullivan of Nats GM had to say about Johnson’s power:

"“At the plate, there is legitimate raw power in his bat and the aptitude to spray line drives all over the field.  If he can tame the strikeouts and make more contact, he could profile as a slugging #6 or #7 hitter.”"

Coming into the season, MLB Pipeline had Johnson ranked as the 26th best prospect and the eighth best outfielder in the Washington Nationals organization. He’s not going to draw many walks and he’s been caught stealing eight out of 15 times, but he’s going to put the ball in play and make an impact.

As the calendar gets closer to July, you have to wonder when Johnson is going to get the call up to the Carolina League and High-A Potomac because of his versatility to play all three outfield positions. Also, Victor Robles has a .379 on-base percentage in his last 22 games for Potomac, so you have to wonder if a promotion is on the horizon for him as well.

Johnson’s success at Hagerstown is a reminder that players and prospects develop differently. One year, you can hit only one home run and the next year you hit 16.

Next: Romero emerging as bullpen force

With Johnson, it’s safe to say he will be rising up the Nats prospect rankings in no time.

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