Prep Baseball Report

PBR Draft 100: An Inside Look at Cooper Johnson

By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

This past week our National Supervisor, Nathan Rode, released our PBR Draft 100. The PBR Draft 100 ranks the top high school prospects eligible for the 2016 MLB draft, including players outside of Prep Baseball Report’s coverage area of 27 states. This list has been compiled following many months of seeing games and a multitude of conversations with pro scouts and college recruiters.

After interrogating the PBR Draft 100 a few things stood out. Warm weather states dominated the list as they should. The states of Florida, Texas and California were well represented, as 32 of the Top 100 reside in those three states. Five of the Top 11 players on the list are from California. With that being said the top two draft prospects on the list come from cold weather states, New Jersey and Kansas respectively.  

The Land of Lincoln was no slouch in the PBR Draft 100. Five prospects made the Top 100, which is only two less than Texas, which has 7 in the Top 100. No surprise, C Cooper Johnson (Carmel Catholic) is leading the way for Illinois at No. 13 overall. He is also the highest ranked catcher on the list. Johnson is regarded as the best high school catch and throw backstop in the country. He has tremendous flexibility, plus receiving abilities and a cannon for a right arm.

Johnson began to transform into the top player in the state during the summer before his junior year. During that summer he participated and shined at the PBR Future Games and shortly after committed to the University of Mississippi.

Scouting Report from the PBR Future Games (8.1.14) - Immediately following the Future Games, Johnson made his college commitment to Ole Miss, and no doubt several national powerhouses lamented due to the show he put on over the three days.  Johnson's pop times ranged between 1.79-1.94, at 81 mph from the crouch.  He showed the same ability to catch-and-throw during games, nabbing a Team Indiana runner in game three with a 2.0 time down to second.  He showed several 1.87 times between innings.  At the plate, Johnson went 2-for-7 with a double, and a barreled single, hitting several other balls hard.  He needs a little work receiving, but catching several pitchers you aren’t familiar with is no easy task for any backstop.  Johnson should see considerable MLB draft interest with his rocket arm and approach at the plate in the spring of 2015. 

There was no slowing down following the PBR Future Games. He clearly continued to work that fall and winter. In February prior to his junior year high school season he attended the PBR Preseason All-State event. It was here that he showed an improved offensive skillset that cemented himself as a high level national prospect and the top defensive catcher in the PBR coverage area.

Video from Preseason All-State

Scouting Report from the Preseason All-State (
2.15.15) - 6-foot, 200-pound right-handed hitting catcher, strong lower half, wide shoulders, developed forearms. Defensively, Johnson is the top defensive catcher in PBR’s coverage area, and quite possibly the entire country. Reeled off pop times from 1.88-1.95, 83 mph from the crouch from short, over-the-top, accurate, quick and athletic arm action. Very good hip flexibility receiving during pens, sits low, impressed handling Cal Coughlin’s 83-85 mph slider extremely well. Though a primary catcher, Johnson also impresses at third base, showing soft hands and arm strength across the diamond at 84 mph. Hits from a wide base, short stride, utilizes lower half, hands start high, load back smoothly, short power path, gets extension, simple, repeatable approach, impressed with possibly the best round of batting practice at the Preseason All-State, driving the ball from gap-to-gap; should develop power to both gaps. Current power to his pull side, 89 mph exit velocity off the tee. Ran a 7.62 in the 60, but not a concern as feet work quickly behind the plate. Johnson has elevated his national profile over the past year. The Ole’ Miss commit has always been known for his elite catch-and-throw skills, but the bat has taken a major step forward. He’ll be one of the top draft prospects in the 2016 class to follow over the next two seasons. He’s possibly the best catching prospect the PBR scouting staff has seen in ten years.

This past summer Johnson participated in just about every big event possible, culminating in being selected to play for Team USA 18U and winning the gold medal.

2016 Ranking Update (11.5.15) - The one constant to the 2016 Illinois Rankings has been catcher Cooper Johnson (Carmel Catholic) at the top. Johnson a Mississippi recruit, established himself as the country’s top catch-and-throw prospect this summer and made the grand tour, participating in the Tournament of Stars, Area Code Games and Under Armour All-America Game before heading overseas and winning a gold medal with Team USA. At the Under Armour Game, he back-picked a runner at second base and had an in-game pop time of 1.85 seconds. Johnson is atop several national lists and will be a must see for cross checkers across the country come the spring.

A very influential opportunity is still in front of Johnson, the PBR Super 60 Pro Showcase, held in February lies ahead. There is little, if any question left regarding Johnson’s defensive abilities. Some scouts however would still like to see a little more consistency in his offensive game. If he can show them what they are looking for there is little doubt he will be the first high school catcher off the board come June.

More News on Cooper Johnson

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