Always an underrated power source, Josh Willingham has become more and more Adam Dunn like this season than the Willingham we are used to seeing. In the past, Willingham has been a tremendously undervalued source of power while not destroying your batting average. While he has never been a contributor in that category, he has scuffled along with serviceable .260 marks in three of his four seasons leading up to this year.
Now, his average has dropped to .211, making him a difficult candidate to hang onto if you are getting power from other places. The issue with the low average is that it has affected his RBI total as well. He had 110 last year but is on pace for just 87 this season. So, his average is now starting to hurt his contributions in other categories as well, which is a cause for concern because the only reasons you own him are for his homers and RBI. The homers are still there, but it becomes increasingly difficult to rely on a one trick pony as you try to improve your roster in the middle of the season.
The good news is that the average is likely to bounce back, at least a bit. ZiPS projection system has him hitting .239 for the rest of the year, which is okay to live with if he hits the coinciding 17 home runs. And the only reason ZiPS has him hitting just 17 home runs is his checkered injury history, so if he stays healthy another 20+ home runs is certainly likely. And Willingham is the type of player that if he gets any kind of substantial (month long or more) injury then you can drop him without being too upset about it. While that does not sound like it is too valuable, being able to drop a player and having the ability to find an adequate replacement does have value. He is not the kind of guy you would have to keep rostered if he got hurt.
I own Willingham in a number of leagues, but the leagues I am in do not account for batting average. They are all on base percentage leagues, where Willingham has always been one of the most underrated players to own. My co-owner and I have had Willingham on our roster for four consecutive years and we were always able to get him for cheap. In OBP leagues, making a move for Willingham while his average is low could be a valuable move going forward. His walk rate is higher than it has ever been which has allowed him to post a .356 OBP which is right in line with his career mark. For those of us who have him in this type of league, there really has been almost no difference in Willingham’s production this year compared to last. The only real difference is the drop in RBI.
Don’t move Willingham if you have him and look to pick him up if you need the home runs and can deal with the hit you will take in batting average. In OBP leagues, go get him and do not be willing to part with something valuable along the way.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.