Josh Johnson Out For 4-5 Weeks
Josh Johnson becomes the latest Padre pitcher to succumb to the injury bug. Johnson suffered a flexor strain in his right forearm; in a best-case scenario he’ll be back in 4-5 weeks according to Bud Black. Prior to the injury, Johnson had been enjoying a successful spring. Johnson signed a 1 year $8MM contract with the Padres during the offseason. However, the Padres get a $4 million option on Johnson in 2015 if he pitches fewer than 7 starts in 2014. While it’s too early to assume that Johnson won’t meet that 7 start requirement, it is something to keep in mind going forward.
Top prospect Matt Wisler will start tomorrow in place of Johnson, and it is likely that Johnson’s spot in the rotation will be taken over by Wisler, Robbie Erlin, Tim Stauffer, or Donn Roach. All 4 of them have their pros and cons, and none of them boast Johnson’s track record of success at the big league level.
Wisler, who is universally considered as the Padres best right handed pitching prospect, has yet to make his MLB debut. He’s been outstanding at every stop he’s made at the minor league level; he finished 2013 with a 3.00 ERA over 20 starts with the Double-A Missions. Wisler has done well this spring; he owns a 3.52 ERA over 7.2 innings pitched. He’s only 21, and it would be very exciting if he took over Johnson’s spot and produced immediately. However, for a team like the Padres that is looking to avoid the slow start that has plagued them over the past couple of seasons, relying on a 21 year old pitcher, who has yet to make his major league debut, for the first month of the season may not be the best idea.
Erlin, who made his MLB debut with the Padres in 2013, is probably the most likely candidate to start in Johnson’s absence. Erlin pitched well in the big leagues last year, particularly in his last 5 starts where he went 2-1 with a 1.97 ERA. He too has pitched well this spring, and seems primed to make his impact in the majors. However, with Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross owning the first 3 spots in the rotation, Erlin would be taking over either the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation – either way he and Eric Stults would pitch on consecutive days. Erlin and Stults are essentially the same pitcher – both rely on command and finesse as opposed to overpowering stuff. Having them pitch back-to-back may not be the best idea.
Donn Roach and Tim Stauffer are the last two likely candidates to take over Johnson’s spot. If Stauffer gets it, it’s conceivable to think that Roach would then be inserted into the bullpen to take over the long reliever role. Stauffer hasn’t started a big league game since 2012, and he hasn’t started for a full season since 2011, but when he has been in the starting role he has been successful. But, his success in long relief last year may prompt Bud Black to keep him there and insert Donn Roach into the rotation. Roach wasn’t hugely successful in the minors last year, but he’s a ground ball machine who possesses arguably the best sinker ball in the minor leagues. I doubt Roach will get Johnson’s spot, but the possibility exists.
Overall, I believe Erlin will end up getting the spot in the rotation with Stauffer staying long relief while both Wisler and Roach get some more seasoning in the minor leagues. What do you guys think? Who would you like to see take over Johnson’s spot?