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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL SLEEPER: JOSH JOHNSON SP SAN DIEGO PADRES

                                                       Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson a sleeper?  The 6.20 ERA and 1.66 WHIP Josh Johnson from 2013?  The same Josh Johnson that I have ripped to shreds every chance I got the last two seasons in telling anyone who would listen to run away upon hearing his name?  The answer to the above can be summed up in two words:  "Petco Park."  Looking to re-establish his value off a truly horrendous 2013 season spent with the Toronto Blue Jays, Johnson inked a one-year deal for $8 million in a clear attempt to re-establish his name and cash in again for 2015.  It certainly was the right spot for Johnson to try and accomplish that as Petco Park is universally considered the top pitching park in all of baseball and has helped make mediocre pitchers fantasy baseball useful for at least their home starts the last few years.  Once a slam dunk fantasy baseball ace and top ten overall starter, Johnson has been undermined with his pitching numbers due to a shoulder injury that he suffered back in the 2011 season.  Deciding to rehab the injury when it was recommended he have surgery, Johnson quickly showed himself to be a shell of his former top tier self in an injury-marred 2012 when he pitched to a 3.81 ERA and 1.28 WHIP which putting up a drastically reduced K rate.  The Marlins soon decided to cut bait and sent him to the Blue Jays in the Jose Reyes deal.  That is where the bottom completely fell out for Johnson last season when he was pretty much horrific the entire year in yielding that hard to look at 6.20 ERA and 1.66 WHIP.  A shoulder that has seen better days matched up in the American League and one of the best home run parks in Toronto was about as bad a combination as one could get for a pitcher.  Thus the overall bottom line was not shocking and in the end Johnson was a nuclear option who was left to rot on the waiver wire. 

Looking a bit under the hood of his 2013 numbers, Johnson showed at least a glimmer of hope for prospective teams entering free agency.  For one, Johnson upped his K rate back to his early Marlins days by striking out 83 batters in 81.1 innings.  In addition, Johnson's home run rate shot way up which was not surprising in Toronto.  Overall Johnson gave up 15 home runs in only 81.1 inning which is as bad a rate as one could get.  His control and walk rate was right in line with his career numbers but Johnson's hit rate was way up as well which helped boost the rate stats.  Getting out of the AL and that awful park and going to as complete an opposite environment as one could get in heading to San Diego should more than help cut into that hit rate and surely cut the home run total maybe even in half.  Throw in the boost in strikeouts pitching against weaker NL lineups, especially in the NL West and Johnson has some appeal as a veteran fantasy baseball sleeper who could fill out your rotation. 

Overall we are not suggesting you go out and reach for Johnson.  He was so truly bad last season that his draft price should be very affordable in all formats.  Ultimately you should be able to get Johnson as your SP 4 and ideally your SP 5 which is where he would play best.  Under that scenario, Johnson is well worth a pick due to the ballpark alone and his K potential. 

2014 PROJECTION:  11-8 3.85 ERA 1.22 WHIP 175 K

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