Olin Johnson has generated quite a buzz among professional scouts this spring. The McCallie (Tenn.) High School right-handed pitcher displayed increased fastball velocity and a refined overall pitch mix to dominate opposing hitters during his senior season.
Johnson’s development and performance this spring have caused him to enhance his MLB draft status. Scouts consider Johnson a potential early-round pick in July’s draft. It’s a notable accomplishment for Johnson, who started pitching consistently just two years ago, he said.
“It is strange in a way because I feel like I just kind of popped up this year,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to see, honestly, because it feels like the hard work is paying off. It’s strange to me still because it’s all new to me and unchartered territory.”
Johnson is a 6-foot-6, 220-pound righty who throws a four-seam fastball, slider and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot and athletic delivery. He has added 45 pounds to his frame since Johnson, a Washington native, transferred to McCallie in fall 2021, he said.
Johnson is primarily a two-pitch pitcher, with his fastball an above-average offering. The pitch sits in the low-90s, touches 96 mph, and features running action, causing it to move in on right-handed hitters and away from lefties. His fastball sat in the high-80s last season.
His slider also is a quality pitch. It features big breaking action, sometimes looking like a slurve, and serves as his strikeout pitch. He has shown improved confidence and command with his slider this spring.
Johnson is an intriguing pitcher who has made notable strides over the last year. His increased size, velocity and overall potential make him an intriguing prospect moving forward.
“To me, my mound presence and pitchability are my biggest strengths,” Johnson said. “My mound presence is pretty good. When I go out there, my mindset is to dominate and try to win the ball game. My pitchability has come a long way and increased, as I can command my pitches better and manipulate the spin on the ball to get strikeouts and weak contact.”
Johnson’s changeup flashes potential and displays fading action. The righty wants to gain more experience throwing his changeup and believes that will lead to a better feel and confidence for his off-speed pitch.
Besides refining his pitch mix, Johnson also hopes to continue to make strides in the weight room by improving his strength and explosiveness.
“During this offseason, I want to continue to get stronger,” Johnson said. “Plus, I want to develop my pitches a little more. I feel comfortable and confident in my pitches right now, but I want to go ahead and polish up the arsenal. I want to get the slider to be harder and throw it with more conviction and confidence.”
Johnson has a bright future ahead on the mound. Besides his status as a top draft prospect, he also is a University of North Carolina commit.
The righty previously lived in Washington and initially committed to Washington State University. He decommitted and reopened the recruiting process last year. During a strong showing last summer, he committed to North Carolina in July 2022.
Johnson has family in North Carolina and grew up wanting to play baseball at the university. Once they started showing interest in him last year, Johnson knew he wanted to attend the school due to the program’s track record of developing talent for the pro ranks.
“I fell in love with the school,” Johnson said. “After I decommitted, I got some interest from them and figured that is where I wanted to go. It took off, and all worked out for me.”
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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.