Josh Johnson returned to the mound last night for the first time since April 21. The oft-injured 29-year-old (it still surprises me that he’s just 29) impressed against the Giants, throwing seven innings with one earned run allowed with six strikeouts and no walks. Granted, it was a return to the NL and the Giants do not have what we would call a high powered offense, but they can certainly string together sets of hits to put some runs on the board.
Johnson’s lone big mistake was a second inning home run allowed to Andres Torres. The only other extra base hit he allowed was a double to the red hot Marco Scuatro. Overall, it was a solid outing and those who stuck with Johnson and had an open roster spot for him while he was disabled must be happy that they did so. Going forward, I think Johnson should continue to perform at a high level as long as he is able to stay on the mound. For those that drafted and stuck with Johnson through the injury, they knew what they were getting into when they took that risk. As long as the rest of your team is healthy, Johnson is a worthy candidate to start when healthy and stash on the DL when not. He pretty much always performs well, though his ERA is high so far this year and his 3.81 mark last year was a career high (min. 16+ innings).
The immediate cause for concern with Johnson is his drop in velocity from what essentially looks like his prime. While he is still just 29, his best days are likely still behind him. But being at that age leaves at least some upside that he can return to his old self and produce at not just good but potentially very high levels. There is certainly value in having a guy with that kind of upside and at that age on your roster. If someone in your league is looking to move Johnson after the one start, they probably aren’t looking for a big haul. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to test the waters and see what he costs, and it is going to be different in almost every league. He is owned in 69% of Yahoo! leagues, and while healthy I am more than willing to have him on a roster. If for some reason he isn’t rostered, grab him immediately, but if you are reading this site he is more than likely on yours or your opponent’s team.
I think ZiPS is being a bit pessimistic with its projection of Johnson going forward, as his 3.84 ERA and 3.67 FIP seem a bit high to me. I like where his strikeout percentage is, and he has been able to limit the walks from this year to last year in his small sample of innings. If he is able to capitalize on improved command, I think he can improve his numbers from last year. I would not spend much on acquiring Johnson, but I would certainly find out what the asking price is. If you stuck with him during his DL stint, hold onto him and ride the wave until it stops.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.