Left-hander Brian Johnson, who had been pitching for the Milwaukee Milkmen of the independent American Association, has signed a minor league pact with the Angels, per an announcement from the Milkmen (Twitter link).
Johnson, now 30 years old, was the No. 31 overall draft pick by the Red Sox back in 2012 and rated as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects over the next six years. The lefty dealt with shoulder, hip and elbow injuries throughout his time with the Sox, however, which combined to limit his effectiveness. He was a serviceable option with the Red Sox from 2017-18 before struggling in 2019 and ultimately going unclaimed on waivers. Boston released him in 2020, after the left-hander pitched to a 4.74 ERA in parts of four seasons at the MLB level (171 innings).
Johnson made just two appearance for the Milkmen this season, during which time he hurled five shutout innings with seven hits, no walks and eight strikeouts. He’ll presumably head to the Angels’ Salt Lake affiliate in Triple-A — a level at which he’s pitched to a 3.21 ERA with a 20.2 percent strikeout rate and a 9.0 percent walk rate over the life of 278 innings.
The Angels have had far better health in the organization in 2021 than they have in recent years. Reliever Luke Bard is currently the only pitcher on the Major League injured list for the Halos, but many of their veteran arms have struggled. Jose Quintana (7.22) and Dylan Bundy (6.68) have career-worst ERA marks, while Griffin Canning (5.07), Andrew Heaney (4.45) and Alex Cobb (4.41) have more passable but still-underwhelming results. Cobb, in particular, has had some poor luck in terms of balls in play and stranding runners, though his 21.2 K-BB% and 60.6 percent grounder rate are both excellent.
Johnson adds yet another experienced left-handed arm to an Angels organization that is deep in southpaw options. In addition to Quintana and Heaney, the club currently has Patrick Sandoval, Tony Watson, Alex Claudio and Jose Suarez on the MLB roster. Dillon Peters and Jose Quijada are both on the 40-man roster but currently in Triple-A, while Thomas Pannone and Packy Naughton give the Halos another pair of non-roster options down in Salt Lake.