Cameron Johnson had the desire to play against top competition after his junior season at Bishop McNamara in Maryland. He believed it would set him up for a brighter future.
In May, the left-handed pitcher decided his best option was to play at IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year. IMG Academy is a premier preparatory boarding school and sports training center in Bradenton, Florida. Year after year, it consistently produces top athletes for the next level.
Johnson, one of the top prep players in the 2023 class, hopes spending a year in IMG Academy’s player development system will prepare him for a future professional career.
“I thought the whole program was better for me in terms of my development,” Johnson said. “Watching players like Elijah Green, Mason Albright, James Wood, and Jackson Ferris and how they progressed and made it to the minor leagues, I want to follow in their footsteps. That is why I chose IMG.”
Last year, Green and Ferris were first and second-round MLB draft picks, respectively, after playing at IMG Academy. Johnson has the chance to follow a similar path this year due to his exciting combination of size and potential.
Right now, scouts project Johnson as a potential early-round pick in July’s draft. If Johnson can show a refined changeup and command this spring, he has the potential to be one of the first prep pitchers selected in the draft.
“For me, I try not to look at mock drafts or draft rankings because I want to focus on my development,” Johnson said. “I know those rankings are going to change after the spring when everyone is done playing. I want to work on myself and be the best version of Cam Johnson I can be.”
Johnson is a 6-foot-5, 243-pound left-handed pitcher with an overpowering fastball and slider combination. He also occasionally throws a changeup from his deceptive delivery.
His four-seam fastball is his best pitch. It is an above-average offering in the mid-90s that touches 97 mph. His fastball features natural movement with arm-side run and sink, generating plenty of swings and misses.
Johnson’s changeup is also a quality pitch that is a weapon against left-handed and right-handed hitters. He has confidence throwing it in any count. The sweeping-breaking pitch displays a lot of movement and serves as an out pitch.
“My body physique and quality fastball,” said Johnson on his strengths. “My fastball has the run with 20-inch horizontal movement. That is very big for me. I also have the wipeout slider. I got a lot of hitters with the slider in the summer. The pitch is an overpowering pitch that I feel hitters can’t get an eye on.”
Johnson’s size and deceptive delivery make him an intimidating figure on the mound. This offseason, Johnson has focused on cleaning up his arm slot. He typically throws from a traditional three-quarters arm slot, but as the showcase circuit went on last summer, it dropped to a low three-quarters arm slot.
The change in arm slots impacted his velocity and command. He has worked on consistently throwing from his three-quarters arm slot this offseason. He has noticed a difference in his offseason bullpen sessions and believes the work will positively impact his performance this spring.
“I watched a lot of videos and analyzed why I wasn’t commanding the ball well,” Johnson said. “Once I got to IMG and threw my first bullpen, my command was a little off. I knew I needed to fix my arm slot.”
Johnson’s changeup is an average offering right now. He struggled to consistently throw a quality changeup on the showcase circuit and changed the grip this offseason.
He now throws a circle changeup, and the early results have been positive. Johnson said his changeup has been more consistent and accurate while exhibiting more movement in offseason bullpen sessions.
“It motivates me to get the changeup down because once I have that down, I will be one of the top pitchers, unstoppable pitchers in the country,” Johnson said.
Besides being a draft prospect, Johnson is a Louisiana State University commit. LSU’s coaching staff stood out to Johnson during the recruiting process.
LSU hired Jay Johnson, who led Arizona to the College World Series in 2021, to replace long-time coach Paul Mainieri. In 2022, the Tigers reached the NCAA Tournament and finished with a 40-22 record in Johnson’s first season at the helm.
After the conclusion of the 2022 season, LSU’s highly-regarded pitching coach Jason Kelly left and accepted the head coaching position at Washington. The Tigers replaced Kelly with then-Minnesota Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson.
Historically, LSU is one of the top programs in college baseball. The Tigers rank seventh all-time with 18 College World Series appearances and second all-time with six national titles. They also have a track record of success developing talent for the pro ranks.
If he makes it to campus in the fall, Johnson plans on majoring in criminology due to his passion for forensic science.
“What stood out was what LSU had to offer with its new coaches,” Johnson said. “The program is on the rise, and I want to be part of that new dynasty and culture.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.