Chase Johnson signed a professional baseball contract June 18.
Johnson, a 2010 Fallbrook High School graduate who spent the 2011 through 2013 college baseball seasons pitching for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the third round of this year’s draft.
“It was a great feeling,” Johnson said of signing his contract. “It’s just a really exciting time.”
Johnson was the 101st overall selection in the 2013 draft. “I’d heard from some teams that I could go that high,” he said of being taken in the third round.
The right-hander was drafted June 7. The $440,000 signing bonus was acceptable, but the actual contract was contingent upon Johnson passing the organization’s physical including a magnetic resonance imaging scan on his arm. “That took a little bit,” he said.
Johnson appeared in 15 games, all in relief, for Cal Poly in 2013 and posted a 2.31 earned run average in 23 1/3 innings. He allowed 20 hits, nine walks, and no home runs while striking out 21 opponents. Johnson held opposing batters to a .235 average.
Three of those games were in the NCAA regional tournament, in which Johnson pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed only one hit, one walk, and one hit batter. Johnson finished all three of the Mustangs’ games in the double-elimination tournament in Los Angeles. Cal Poly’s 9-2 win May 31 over the University of San Diego included Johnson hitting one batter while retiring the other three he faced; four of his six pitches were strikes.
Johnson retired all three UCLA batters he faced June 1 in the Mustangs’ 6-4 loss, throwing ten pitches including seven strikes. Johnson pitched the final 2 1/3 innings in the June 2 elimination game against USD and allowed one hit and one walk while striking out three Toreros in the Mustangs’ 8-5 loss.
“I pitched a lot in that regional,” Johnson said. “I think it ended up being a good season.”
Cal Poly played in the NCAA regionals for the first time since 2009 and only the second time since becoming a Division I program. The win over USD was the Mustangs’ first-ever victory in the Division I tournament.
Johnson began his collegiate career as a starter but was switched to the bullpen as a freshman. His first college season in 2011 included a 2-5 won-loss record with a 3.67 ERA in eight starts and ten relief appearances, and he struck out 34 batters in 49 innings.
During the summer of 2011, Johnson played in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League for the Corvallis Knights. During the regular season Johnson struck out 25 batters in 31 innings and posted a 3-1 record with a 2.03 ERA in six starts and three relief appearances.
Corvallis’ 3-0 victory over Bend in the playoff semifinals included Johnson’s seven shutout innings during which he allowed only four hits and one walk while striking out six; he was named the league’s pitcher of the week for that performance and Corvallis subsequently won the league championship. Johnson was also selected to play in the league all-star game but did not pitch in that exhibition due to his rotation schedule.
Johnson’s 25 relief outings for Cal Poly in 2012 produced a 3-4 record, eight saves, a 3.34 ERA, and 31 strikeouts in 35 innings. He spent that summer with the Orleans Firebirds of the Cape Cod League and was 2-1 with a 3.98 ERA in 20 relief appearances. Johnson pitched 20 1/3 innings for Orleans, striking out 23 opponents while walking only eight.
Johnson was also drafted in 2010, when the Texas Rangers selected him out of high school with the team’s 26th-round pick.
“The pleasure was on my side just being part of Chase’s development in baseball and just being part of his baseball life,” said Mark DiBenedetti, who was Fallbrook High School’s pitching coach in 2009 and 2010.
In 2007, Johnson played for Fallbrook’s freshman, junior varsity, and varsity teams. Johnson’s sophomore season included a shutout streak of 26 consecutive innings, including a no-hitter against El Camino. Johnson, who played the outfield when he wasn’t pitching, also hit a grand slam during that shutout streak. He was named to the Avocado League’s second team in 2008.
During his junior year at Fallbrook High School, Johnson developed tendinitis in his throwing arm and was shut down for the high school season. During his limited time on the mound he posted a 3-2 record with a 2.94 ERA.
In August 2009, Johnson was one of only two San Diego County players, and the county’s only pitcher, to play in the Area Code Games in Long Beach. He was then invited to play in the Dodger Elite Tommy Lasorda Games at Dodger Stadium, where he pitched and played left field. He pitched in two games in the Arizona Senior Fall Classic baseball showcase in October 2009.
As a Fallbrook High School senior, Johnson threw 52 1/3 innings, allowing 40 hits and 16 walks. Johnson was named to the Avocado League’s first team in 2010.
“Chase will be a major league pitcher,” DiBenedetti said. “He’s got what it takes.”
Johnson, a lifelong Fallbrook resident who attended Bonsall Elementary School and Sullivan Middle School, was one of four valedictorians in his Sullivan graduating class after compiling a perfect grade point average while in middle school. He was the Fallbrook High School chapter treasurer of the California Scholarship Federation as a senior, and he scored 2,020 out of a possible 2,400 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Johnson compiled a cumulative 4.05 grade point average at Fallbrook High School.
“He’s an outstanding young man with character. He is an excellent student, and his work ethic is through the roof,” DiBenedetti said.
Johnson began playing T-Ball and Fallbrook Youth Baseball at the age of 5 and spent nine years in Pony League baseball. He started playing travel ball at the age of 10. When he was 9, he began taking batting and pitching lessons from Dave Hedenz.
Johnson made his minor league debut June 28 with the Giants’ Arizona League affiliate in Scottsdale. He pitched in three games for Scottsdale, allowing only one run in 5 1/3 relief innings, before being promoted to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the Northwest League. His first pitching appearance for Salem-Keizer was a July 12 start against the Spokane Indians; he threw four hitless innings while walking only one batter.
“They want me to get out there and start throwing,” he said.