The acquisitions of Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano, along with the health of Ricky Nolasco, are bigger for the Marlins than they would be for most other teams. Those three guys are innings eaters. Those three guys seem to be the more dependable of the Marlins starters going into the 2012 season, in which the team is actually expecting to contend for a playoff spot.
But two-thirds of the core of this staff, Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez, pose huge injury risks, this and every season. Johnson, unfortunately, poses even a bigger risk than Sanchez. I say unfortunately because when he's on, Josh Johnson is right up there with any pitcher in the Majors.
Breaking it down by year, Sanchez has had seasons in which he started just six, 10 and 16 games respectively. But the past two seasons he's been on the mound 32 times and seems to be acclimating to the grind of taking the ball every fifth day.
Johnson also has three seasons in which he missed more than half the year. His three most injury plagued seasons saw him start just four, 9 and 14 games. The plus is that Johnson is coming off the most dominating start to any year of his career. The downside is he couldn't make it through May of 2011 before sitting out the rest of the season.
Both Sanchez and Johnson have had major surgeries. Sanchez had a torn labrum repaired in 2007, and Johnson had Tommy John surgery in the same year. Since then Sanchez has had some minor bumps and bruises, but Johnson's back has been a constant source of trouble, with some citing his height and posture on the mound as a potential culprit.
This is why I believe Johnson is less likely to pitch a full season. At 6'7, 252 pounds, he's one of the bigger pitchers in the majors. Throwing 97 MPH at that size has to take a toll on his back, no matter how healthy he claims to be. For the Marlins sake they need them both to make at least 30 starts this season. But bank on the other starters to take the ball more often than Sanchez and Johnson.