Fantasy Baseball: Miami Marlins Ace Josh Johnson Worth the Risk

By Tom Froemming

It’s time to take down all the giant red flags that surround Miami Marlins ace Josh Johnson.

Johnson pitched five scoreless innings Sunday to lower his Spring Training ERA to 1.62, though he hasn’t always been on point. The 28-year-old walked five batters in the Marlins’ 5-1 win, and has a higher than usual 1.44 WHIP.

The control issues are a concern, but Johnson has been able to neutralize any problems they create by striking out 15 hitters in 16.2 innings pitched. Spring Training stats, much like minor league stats, don’t always give you a clear picture of a player. Johnson could be working on certain pitches, or could be more focused on his delivery, but the important thing is he’s looking fully healthy.

Johnson told reporters after the game his last two innings felt especially good:

“Everything was on time. My tempo was a lot better. I was going after guys, throwing quality pitches. That’s what I’ve been looking for all spring, those two innings right there.”

His health outlook can all change with one throw, but until then I think it’s time to move Johnson up the fantasy baseball cheat sheets.

Johnson had a National League best 2.30 ERA in 2010 and was off to another great start last season. Through nine outings, Johnson was 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. A shoulder injury cost him the rest of the 2011 season.

ESPN has Johnson ranked as the 36th starting pitcher, in the same range as Yu Darvish, Gio Gonzalez, Brandon Beachy and Cory Luebke. Yahoo has him ranked more appropriately, in my mind, at No. 22, in with the likes of Matt Moore, Adam Wainwright and Matt Garza.

I believe Johnson belongs inside the top 20 starting pitchers, though the later you can get him, the more of a value he’ll be to your fantasy team.

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