Termarr's bat will be on display in inaugural Futures Skills Showcase

July 10th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Alex Stumpf’s Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

’s whole offensive approach stems around some of the most basic tenets of hitting. Among those fundamentals, he works to keep his head in a good position, hunt strikes and hit the ball to the middle of the field.

That last one could come in handy as he takes part in the All-Star Futures Game’s inaugural Futures Skills Showcase this week. (It will air on tape delay at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday on MLB Network as well as on MLB.TV, MLB.com and in the MLB App.) Johnson, the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, will join right-hander Bubba Chandler in representing the club at the congregation of the best prospects in the game. After the game, Johnson will be one of eight hitters who will take part in a series of challenges to see who has the best batted-ball control, ranging from calling what part of the field they want to hit the ball to, to a twist on a home run derby.

“I’m excited to be a part of it, especially with it being my first time,” Johnson said over the phone.

When Johnson is clicking at the plate, he is able to pretty much play those games during his at-bats, spraying it to both gaps while flashing some pop. We’re starting to see that in games again. After a slow start, Johnson is hitting .318 with four home runs, four doubles and 14 walks over 102 plate appearances since June 14. That hot stretch includes a pair of home runs last week, one off a breaking ball, the other a splitter, to reaffirm that this 20-year-old second baseman has the potential to be a plus hitter

There are parts of his game that need to continue to improve -- he is still only 20 and playing High-A ball, after all -- and performance against breaking balls is one. A couple good swings last week does suggest he might be turning a corner there.

“Being able to hit it hard, being able to spray it, put it in play and hit it out of the park has definitely been rewarding for me,” Johnson said.

Another common critique of Johnson's game stems from him maybe not swinging enough. His left-handed stroke is regarded as one of the prettiest swings in the system, but selectivity can sometimes lead to more strikeouts. It also leads to more than his fair share of walks, and in case there was any confusion, Johnson is going up to bat looking to do damage and swing at strikes.

“I’m definitely trying to go up there and swing the bat,” Johnson said. “You can ask anybody in our organization. I hate taking walks.”

Wait, you hate walking? Didn’t you [have 101] walks a year ago?

“I know,” he answered. “It was tough.”

Last week, general manager Ben Cherington made a trip to High-A Greensboro to check in with the affiliate, and Johnson impressed.

Cherington felt good about Johnson's swing decisions, the work he was doing defensively, and, of course, those aforementioned homers.

“What's been really consistent all year, from Opening Day, from the staff, is just how focused his work has been, his work ethic,” Cherington said.

“Focused on the team, a team that is performing really well. He's been right in the middle of it.

"You can tell it's important to him -- to be part of a winning team -- and he's been right in the middle of that, even as one of the youngest guys in the league. Been encouraged, we think he's in a good spot.”

Johnson wants to do great things. It’s evident when talking to him, and the front office sees it, too. It’s been two years since the Pirates took him with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 Draft, and even after years of being one of the guys that prospects look at as an example, the Bucs are going to be drafting players this week who are still older than him.

But Johnson has always played a few years up from most of his competition, and he welcomes those eyeballs. He feels he’s on a path to doing something special.

“It’s about being in the game and trying to learn as much as I can now,” Johnson said. “Because I know soon here, I’m going to be playing under the big lights, playing with the big club. I’ve got to make sure I keep the game, the game.”