Sean Johnson enters his first season with the Grizzlies and second as a professional in 2019.
Johnson, who will turn 25 on July 6, pitched last season for the Pittsburg (Calif.) Diamonds of the independent Pacific Association and the Evansville Otters and Normal CornBelters in the Frontier League. He was picked up by Evansville after posting a 2.50 ERA for Pittsburg over 18 innings (15 appearances, all in relief); he struck out 24 and walked 10. He made 10 combined appearances between Evansville and Normal.
Before pro ball, Johnson played at Ole Miss for three years (2015-2017; threw only one inning in 2016 due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery) and spent two years before that at Iowa Western Community College, where he went 10-1 (4.15 ERA, 82 strikeouts against 24 walks over 69 innings) for the 2014 junior college national champions.
After his freshman year at Iowa Western, Johnson was chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the 31st round of the 2013 MLB Draft. He chose to return to school.
Johnson also lettered in hockey and golf all four years at Fountain Valley High School. He had the opportunity to pursue both hockey and baseball at the collegiate but, partly due to a separated shoulder sustained as a high school senior, chose to exclusively continue his baseball career. He didn’t start pitching until his junior year of high school.
Johnson also has an unusual physical abnormality: The index finger on his throwing hand is shorter than it should be. His freshman year of high school, Johnson said he broke his hand on a growth plate. That abnormality helps him throw pitches with a lot of movement while minimizing torque on his elbow. “The rest of my hand kept growing, but my pointer finger stopped growing,” he said. “So now my four-seam fastball actually releases off my hand like a cutter, and my cutter grip actually comes out like a slider. I can throw the crud out of those pitches.”
Johnson is one of six siblings. His mom, Lori, was an NCAA Div. I gymnast at Utah State University and is a member of the Aggies’ wall of fame.