Pipeline Preview: Johnson set to challenge Bethancourt

Reigning Minor League SB champ faces one of the game's best young arms in Gwinnett

Pipeline Preview: Johnson set to challenge Bethancourt

If Micah Johnson gets on base Saturday, he will likely look to steal, as he usually does. The White Sox No. 2 prospect led the Minor Leagues with 84 stolen bases last year, and while he's off that pace this season, he is always a threat to run.

Waiting for him Saturday when Johnson and Triple-A Charlotte begin a five-game series at Gwinnett will be Braves' No. 2 prospect Christian Bethancourt, considered by some scouts to be the best defensive catcher in the Minor Leagues. They face each other for the first time in their careers Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in a game fans can see on MiLB.TV.

While Johnson, ranked No. 99 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, ran away with the Minor League stolen base crown in 2013, he hasn't been as prolific a basestealer this year. Since getting promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Charlotte last month, he has swiped just four bases in 26 games. Overall, he has 14 in 63 games, well off the blistering pace he set last season.

While Johnson isn't running as often as he did in the low Minors, he is still showing his ability at the plate. He enters the series hitting .270/.308/.351 with Charlotte and .304/.371/.416 overall this season.

Scouts praise Bethancourt, ranked No. 65 on the Top 100, for his all-around defensive skills, including his agility and footwork. His above-average arm strength also draws raves and has enabled him to throw out 37 percent of would-be basestealers in his career. In 57 games behind the plate this season, he has thrown out 19 of 55 runners, a total he added to Friday night.

Bethancourt has been solid offensively, as well. His numbers at the plate have steadily improved as the season has progressed, and he enters the series hitting .273/.304/.372. In 23 games in June, he is hitting .329/.352/.415.

Elsewhere in the Minor Leagues, Twins' No. 3 prospect Alex Meyer highlights Saturday's slate of scheduled starters. The right-hander will be looking to snap a skid of rough starts when he takes the mound for Triple-A Rochester against Norfolk. The game, which can be seen on MiLB.TV, begins at 7:05 p.m.

Meyer, ranked No. 24 on the Top 100, has lost his last two decisions and hasn't made it out of the fourth inning in three straight starts. Overall this season, he is 4-4 with a 3.79 ERA and ranks second in the International League with 83 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings.

Top prospect probables:

Adam Conley (Marlins' No. 4), New Orleans at Nashville
Rafael De Paula (Yankees' No. 15), Tampa vs. Dunedin
Ryan Eades (Twins' No. 19), Cedar Rapids vs. Clinton
Kendry Flores (Giants' No. 20), San Jose vs. Visalia
Mitch Gueller (Phillies' No. 17), Williamsport vs. State College
David Holmberg (Reds' No. 6), Louisville vs. Indianapolis
Taylor Jungmann (Brewers' No. 8), Nashville vs. New Orleans
Branden Kline (Orioles' No. 14), Frederick at Potomac
Jairo Labourt (Blue Jays' No. 12), Vancouver vs. Tri-City
Ben Lively (Reds' No. 12), Pensacola at Chattanooga
Steven Matz (Mets' No. 10), Binghamton at Altoona
Meyer (Twins' No. 3), Rochester vs. Norfolk
Nick Petree (Cardinals' No. 20), Palm Beach at Fort Myers
Joe Ross (Padres' No. 9), Lake Elsinore at Lancaster
Scott Snodgrass (White Sox No. 19), Birmingham vs. Mississippi
Duane Underwood (Cubs' No. 20), Kane County at Beloit
Jose Urena (Marlins' No. 7), Jacksonville at Mobile
Devin Williams (Brewers' No. 3), Helena at Billings
Asher Wojciechowski (Astros' No. 13), Oklahoma City vs. Omaha

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.