GREENSBORO, NC – Termarr Johnson points to the home crowd in the stands in Greensboro every time he crosses first base for a home run.
The second base prospect, drafted fourth overall in 2022, launched two homers while I saw him last week during my trip watching the Pirates’ High-A affiliate. After starting his career in Single-A Bradenton, where most games have hundreds of fans in attendance, Johnson is embracing the chance to play in front of crowds.
“Growing up, that’s something that I always looked forward to, playing in front of a lot of people and having them give me energy,” said Johnson. “Being here and having that amount of people give me energy within each at bat, it’s pretty cool.”
Grand slam! Termarr Johnson is back! pic.twitter.com/MFFFIt1b7Z
— Tim Williams (@TimWilliamsP2) August 19, 2023
Johnson said the Greensboro crowd treats the players like family, always bringing the noise to the home games.
“It kind of reminds me of like, summer circuit, coming out and playing every weekend and a different city and playing on different teams,” said Johnson. “So that’s how I’ve been trying to treat it.”
The Pirates promoted Johnson to the High-A level at the start of August. Being drafted out of high school last year, the 19-year-old is getting adjusted to the new level and playing out his pro career while living on his own. He’s currently living with Bubba Chandler, another high profile prep player who is on his own for the first time this year.
On the field, Johnson has been a surprise, due to his ability to hit for power from a 5′ 7″ frame. He hit 12 homers across his final two months in Bradenton, and already has four homers in 60 at-bats.
“When I get my pitch, I’m just trying not to miss it,” said Johnson. “It turns into a pretty nice swing, and it turns into a swing over the fence. It’s not really me trying to hit home runs, or anything like that. It’s more of like getting the pitch, and hitting it really hard.”
That has been how it’s played out early in his pro career. When I saw him in Greensboro, he opened the first game with a home run — his third game in a row with a homer. Johnson was hit in the hand with a pitch during the series. He returned after a game off and hit a grand slam in his second at-bat, videoed above.
Johnson’s stat line (.200/.385/.400) is paired with a 25.6% strikeout rate and a 21.8% walk rate. He’s definitely one of the more full throttle hitters at the plate in Greensboro, always looking to do damage. Long-term, he will need to scale the aggression back. He’s already shown the ability to do that, including during that grand slam — laying off a bad pitch before crushing a hanger.
That wasn’t the only adjustment he made that week. In the game where Johnson was hit in the hand, he had a nice adjusted hit earlier in the at-bat. That hit came on a slider, where all he had to do was throw his bat out into the path of the ball with a check swing. The result was an RBI single to shallow right field.
“With that pitch I saw a slider,” said Johnson. “I saw it getting ready to come inside and I was trying to adjust to it and it ended up being an RBI hit. So I was very grateful for it.”
As I wrote in Baseball America earlier this year, Johnson has been focused on getting used to different pitch shapes during his first season in pro ball.
“(He’s) starting to build that hitter’s library of what things look like and when to put a little extra effort into the swing, when to back off a little bit—all those kind of just professional baseball things,” Pirates’ farm director John Baker said earlier in the year.
Johnson has shown improvements on this ability throughout the year, but still has work to do. The High-A level will give him a further test on his pitch recognition abilities. With Greensboro sitting at 62-53, and three and a half games back from a playoff spot, Johnson is hoping that his bat can help lead the Grasshoppers to the post-season.
“I’m trying to help this team win as much as we can, get us in a playoff race, just go from here,” said Johnson. “Try to get us a championship down here in Greensboro.”+ posts
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.