BATON ROUGE, La. – Wes Johnson, the pitching coach of the American League Central Division-leading Minnesota Twins, has been hired as pitching coach at LSU, coach Jay Johnson announced Monday.
Wes Johnson will begin his tenure at LSU later this week after coaching the Twins in their five-game series against the Cleveland Guardians. His hiring is effective upon the completion of LSU’s background check process and approval by the university’s Board of Supervisors.
“I couldn’t be more excited to announce Wes Johnson as our pitching coach at LSU,” Jay Johnson said. “We have hired, in my opinion, the best pitching coach in the country at any level. The success he has had at the highest level of baseball speaks to Wes’ ability to communicate, teach, develop and motivate. Our current and future pitchers have a coach in Wes that will get the best out of them and help them develop into one of the best pitching staffs in college baseball on an annual basis.
“I believe Wes will help us recruit and develop a large number of future Major League pitchers at LSU and form them into a dominant staff for years to come. This is a huge day for LSU Baseball.”
Wes Johnson, a native of Sherwood, Ark., had worked as a collegiate pitching coach since 2008 – including SEC stints at Mississippi State and Arkansas – before joining the Twins and becoming the first pitching coach in MLB history to make the move directly from the college ranks to the big leagues.
His first Twins staff in 2019 set a club record with 1,463 strikeouts, and he helped lead the team to back-to-back AL Central Division titles in 2019 and 2020. The 2020 Twins staff established a club record for strikeouts-per-nine-innings-pitched (9.38).
Johnson coached Minnesota right-hander Kenta Maeda to a 2.70 ERA and a 6-1 record in 2020, earning him a runner-up finish in AL Cy Young Award balloting.
The Twins this season are in first place in the AL Central with a 41-33 mark, two games ahead of the Guardians. Johnson’s pitching staff has a 3.78 cumulative ERA, which ranks No. 7 in the American League.
During his tenure as a college coach, 30 of Johnson’s pitchers have been drafted by MLB teams. Prior to accepting the job with the Twins, he was the pitching coach at Arkansas in 2017 and 2018, helping lead the Razorbacks to a national runners-up finish at the 2018 College World Series.
Johnson developed Arkansas ace right-hander Blaine Knight, who posted a 14-0 record in 2018 and was selected in the third round of the MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
At Mississippi State in 2016, Johnson produced six pitchers that were selected in the MLB Draft, most notably Dakota Johnson as the 34th overall selection by the St. Louis Cardinals. After Mississippi State won only eight SEC games the season prior to Wes Johnson’s arrival, the 2016 Bulldogs captured the SEC regular-season title and advanced to an NCAA Super Regional.
Johnson coached five Dallas Baptist pitchers that were chosen in the first 12 rounds of the 2015 Draft, and he helped lead the Patriots to NCAA Regional appearances in three of his four seasons at DBU (2012-15). The 2014 Dallas Baptist staff set school records for strikeouts (506) and opponent batting average (.248).
Johnson served as the pitching coach for three seasons (2008, 2010-11) at Central Arkansas, where his hurlers set school records for ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, opponent batting average and fewest walks.
Johnson worked as the pitching coach in 2009 at Southern Arkansas, where he mentored right-hander Hayden Simpson, who would go on to become the first-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 2010 MLB Draft. Johnson’s 2009 Southern Arkansas staff set a Gulf South Conference record with 499 strikeouts.
Prior to coaching collegiately, Johnson spent four seasons as the head coach of Abundant Life High School in his hometown of Sherwood, Ark., guiding the Owls to a 102-25 overall record and consecutive state titles 2006 and 2007.
Johnson earned a degree in marketing in December 1994 from the University of Arkansas Monticello. He and his wife Angie have three children – Ryan, Anna and Ava.
What They’ve Said About Wes Johnson
“Wes Johnson has been an integral part of our organization over the last three and a half seasons and has helped guide our pitchers at the highest level. His leadership, insight, creativity, and ability to effectively work across a diverse team were hallmarks of his time with the Minnesota Twins. His influence and impact will continue to be realized in Minnesota through the pitchers and staff members he helped mentor. We wish him and his family all the best during his next stop at LSU.” – Derek Falvey, Minnesota Twins President of Baseball Operations
“I do let Wes take control and set up a plan for each one of our guys. You’re always going to have times where guys are not throwing the ball the way they want to, even your trusted guys. That’s going to happen. You kind of get back down to the plan of what you’re trying to accomplish when you get out there on the mound. Beyond the plan, are we executing the plan? Are we throwing the pitches that we want to throw, the way we want to throw them? Or not? Wes is really good about that. He’s done that many times over for us.” – Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins Manager
“Wes Johnson is highly regarded both as an elite pitching coach and an outstanding recruiter. His detailed and innovative approach produced remarkable results as his pitchers consistently made big jumps during their collegiate careers. Wes’ staffs are known for having power-armed relievers with power breaking stuff but his versatility was seen in rotations that were more versed in pitchablity and command.” – Mike Rooney, ESPN College Baseball Analyst
“Wes Johnson is and has become one of the most innovative pitching coaches in college or professional baseball. Wes’ strength is his never-ending pursuit of a better way.” – Brent Strom, Arizona Diamondbacks Pitching Coach
“Wes Johnson is one of the outstanding pitching minds in the game of baseball. He approaches the game with a growth mindset. Wes is always looking to learn, advance his ideas and think creatively. He continues to utilize all the information available to have the biggest and most positive impact on his players. The culture he creates is infectious.” – Eric Binder, Cleveland Guardians Assistant General Manager
“I know Wes as one of the most forward thinking and knowledgeable pitching coaches in the game. Technology and reams of data have changed the way we evaluate and develop pitchers. No person I know has a better handle on how to blend this emerging science with the art of coaching like Wes. If you want to be sure to maximize your innate talent, you’re in good hands with Wes Johnson.” – Scott Lovekamp, New York Yankees Pitching Analyst
“I had the opportunity to see the pitching program Wes Johnson put together up close, and I have to say in my opinion it is one of the most comprehensive programs I have ever seen in the professional or college ranks. With Wes’ knowledge, expertise and experience, he gives his pitchers the best chance of reaching their full potential. Wes’ track record speaks for itself.” – Dewey Robinson, former Tampa Bay Rays Director of Pitching Development
“I knew Wes was the right fit for our program when I hired him, and he brought his passion for the game and for the Razorbacks every single day. Wes’ energy and tireless work ethic was infectious from our players to our staff. I know he had a positive impact on everyone he worked with and every aspect of our program.” – Dave Van Horn, Arkansas Head Coach
“Wes is as good as they get. He has a passion for development and doing everything possible to help pitchers reach their full potential. He is innovative, but has the ability to make the complex seem very simple to pitchers, which is how it needs to be when they are in a game. He is also positive and personable, which enables him to treat each pitcher as an individual and helps them come up with their own plan of attacking hitters.” – Dan Heefner, Dallas Baptist Head Coach