From the AFL: Ben Johnson Interview

Ben Johnson

We hear it all the time, especially from guys like <I>Fox's</I> Tim McCarver. The game has changed. It's okay for a guy to strikeout 150 times, as long as he hits 40 home runs. The Padres know this, believe this, and have informed outfield prospect Ben Johnson that while yes, we'd like to see you cut down on the strikeouts, no, we don't want you giving up your power to do it.

"My power numbers are starting to get to where I want them to be." Ben Johnson said at Scottsdale Stadium as he warmed up for a game in the Arizona Fall League.

If they are starting to get to where he wants them to be the message to opposing pitchers is, be afraid, be very afraid.

Johnson started slowly last year at Mobile, and though his average finished at just .251, he hit 23 homers and had 85 RBI in 136 games.

His second half was torrid, he led the Southern League in second half homers, and he feels like he's carried that hot finish into the AFL.

"[Padres roving hitting instructor Rob] Deer told me to trust my instincts. The organization really hasn't talked to me too much about my strikeouts, they've focused more on the power. They really are happy with my progress."

Those strikeout numbers, 136 Ks in 475 at bats, might seem to be a problem, but they really are in line with major league power hitters like Richie Sexson and Jim Thome.

"Everybody is down here for the same reason," Johnson says. "We're all trying to improve, and to make it to the big leagues. I'd love to cut down on my strikeouts, but I'm going to stay aggressive."

For Johnson, being in Arizona has meant going back and forth between the Fall League and the Instructional League. "It's been a lot of work because I'm working in both leagues, but it is paying off."

Johnson's AFL numbers support this claim.

Through the 25th of October, Johnson was hitting .321 with four homers, 13 RBI, and 13 runs scored. That's in 53 at bats, and while he has struck out 15 times, he's also managed seven bases on balls. Exactly the sort of numbers the Padres could use at the major league level, but first Johnson's still got work to do.

"I love hitting, but I'm here to work on my whole game, if I'm going to the next level, I'll have to take my game to the next level first."

James Renwick is Managing Editor of Futurebacks.com and provides Arizona Fall League coverage for Scout.com and MadFriars.com

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