The Chicago Cubs had high expectations for Greenbrier star J.J. Johnson when they selected him in the sixth round of the June Amateur Baseball Draft.
The 6-foot, 3-inch slugger did not disappoint in his first couple of seasons in the organization. However, 2003 was a down year for Johnson.
He did not show the progression they expected and seemed to take a couple of steps backward in his quest of playing in the big leagues.
Well, 2004 has been a bounce-back year. Johnson's bat is once again doing the talking, and it's letting the Cubs know that J.J. has plans to play in front of the ivy-covered walls at Wrigley Field.
During a five-game hitting streak, J.J. was nine for 19 with three doubles, one home run and seven RBIs. For the season, Johnson is hitting .307, which is second on a team filled with prospects, including the team's No. 1 prospect Felix Pie, who leads the team at .322.
Johnson only has one home run, but he also has 10 doubles and 34 runs batted in. He has also scored 25 runs and stolen six bases in 61 games this season.
I'm sure the Cubs want J.J.'s power numbers to improve, but he is certainly back in the mix when people discuss the Cubs farm system.
Johnson isn't the only local player playing well.
Todd Greene is coming off a big weekend. The former Evans star was three for five in two games with a homer and a double, and raised his season average to .279. He has played in 38 games with eight doubles and 10 runs scored so far this season.
One-time Greenbrier player James Shanks has been tremendous since signing with the Marlins. Through 48 games, Shanks is hitting a cool .320 with some surprising power. He has hit five homers and pounded 12 doubles. He also has 33 runs scored, 22 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. The only surprise here is that he is still in Single A, and has all those numbers in about one-third of the season.
Bradley Key, another former Wolfpack player, is using wooden bats for the first time in his career. The former USC-Aiken star is playing third base and wearing No. 5.
Since signing with the Reds last month, Key has played seven games as a professional. He is hitting .214 with three runs and four RBIs. He is six for 28, but has only three strikeouts in those 28 at bats.
Tydus Meadows, a former Knight, was picked up as Rule Five pick this off-season by the Texas Rangers. Since joining their AA affiliate in San Francisco, Meadows is doing what he always does - showing promise. He is hitting .256, which isn't bad, but below his normal standards. He does have six homers and 22 RBIs. Not bad in only 40 games. He also has nine doubles and 18 runs scored.
Jordan Belcher, who used to play for Augusta Christian, is in extended spring training with the Reds. No stats are available.
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