Atlanta Braves Scouting Report on LHP Chase Johnson-Mullins
The Atlanta Braves have loved their tall relievers as of late, and there’s not many in the system who are taller (or bigger) than Chase Johnson-Mullins. What kind of pitcher is he?
Who Is He?
The Atlanta Braves selected Chase in the 13th round out of Shelton State Community College in Alabama. He had previously pitched for the University of Kentucky but left school for personal reasons.
He was sent to Danville in his draft year, and his intimidating size was evident, though his inability to keep the ball in the strike zone was also prominent as well. He made 16 appearances, throwing 25 2/3 innings with a 2.81 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and a 17/21 BB/K ratio.
The Braves started him in high-A Carolina in a split-closer situation with Evan Phillips to start 2016, and he had some mixed results, saving 8 games over 25 appearances, with a 3.78 ERA and 1.44 WHIP with Carolina.
However, he was suspended due to violation of team rules, and when he was brought back, he was sent down to Rome instead of returned to Carolina. He was not put back into the closer role in Rome, but he was a key piece of the bullpen that ended up winning the South Atlantic League title.
Overall in 2016, CJM made 40 appearances, saving 10 games, with a 2.77 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 26/51 BB/K ratio over 55 1/3 innings.
Chase Johnson-Mullins warming up tonight in Rome. He went 1.1 IP, one hit, that's it @BigBuc28 pic.twitter.com/AEdvQUww3J
— Braves Prospects (@ProspectsBraves) July 24, 2016
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Johnson-Mullins is listed at 6’8 and 270 pounds. He’s all of both listings, and I’ve seen a few places list him as tall as 6’10, though most say 6’8 or 6’9. The weight is a very interesting thing. He’s been much bigger and came into professional baseball bigger as well. Currently, the 270 is probably about 15-20 pounds light, but he’s a guy who will always have to fight to keep off “bad” weight.
Chase pitches strictly out of the stretch. He pulls his knee past toward his back leg and then comes hard to the plate from that position, seemingly falling toward the plate. Johnson-Mullins has some balance issues due to this leap forward, and this has led to some control issues.
CJM comes from a low 3/4 arm slot, but the way he hides his arm behind his massive size, the ball is difficult for all hitters to pick up if he is keeping it in the zone. He holds his arm slot well until he misses his landing spot, which is when he’ll frequently pull farther down, more toward sidearm, but the notable thing is that he ends up slinging the pitch a bit, exposing the ball for a significant time to hitters.
One thing I did note is that Chase is very emotion-driven on the mound. He tends to get a bit wrapped up when he has a few things not go his way, like a bounce that gets past a fielder or a close call that doesn’t go his way on balls and strikes. When he is churning that fire toward excellence, he’s tremendous, but getting down on the things that go against him often can lead to a snowball effect of bad control as he attempts to aim pitches, which then get teed off on.
Chase works off of three primary pitches – two fastballs and his big curve.
His best fastball is a heavy two-seam fastball that has even more effect as he comes from his 6’8 frame. He runs the two-seam to 94-95 while sitting in the 91-93 range. The two-seamer works exceptionally well toward glove side when he’s going well, and he locates it well from the mid-thigh to the knees, generating a lot of swing and miss due to his unique arm angle and height.
When he gets off, he tends to drift the two-seam up in the zone, and it turns into a “slung” 93 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate, and that gets pounded hard, to say the least.
He also throws a four-seam fastball that he can touch up to 96-97 while sitting 92-95. When he’s locating the ball well with the two-seamer, he uses the four-seamer exceptionally well as an eye-adjuster, spotting it at about the belly button to lower chest as a pitch that hitters just can’t get the read on as they are looking low.
His curve sits in the upper-70s in velocity. He gets excellent 11/5 movement on the pitch with a significant amount of loop when he’s going well with the pitch. He likes to bury the pitch in the right-handed batter’s box after having it cut through the zone.
The curve is another pitch that really struggles when he’s off his landing spot. He tends to hang the pitch at knee level in the zone, but most frequently, he hops the pitch ahead of the plate, which is when he ends up getting a lot of his walks.
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) May 17, 2016
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Chase has a build and approach that is reminiscent of Jonathan Broxton, but from the other side of the rubber. Some Braves fans may worry about that comparison, but Broxton has had a very solid career.
Broxton has now played in parts of 12 major league seasons. When he came into the league, he had the ability to completely dominate hitters, striking out over 10 hitters per 9 innings until his 6th season of the year. He is still consistently a guy who is around a batter struck out per inning pitched.
While Broxton is only 6’3 instead of 6’8, he has that large, intimidating size. If Chase can have 3 seasons of 20+ saves and accumulate 750 career strikeouts, he’ll have to be considered a significant success.
If Chase can get his head right, he has the talent to move quickly to the upper levels of the minor leagues, possibly working to AA to start 2017 if the team feels like his mind is right.