Willingham & Morrison: Power Production from Free Agency

Power is typically the hardest to come by in free agent pools across the land, but Josh Willingham and Logan Morrison were likely undrafted in many shallower leagues (think 12-team and fewer mixed leagues), yet contributed solidly in the homer category. Let’s see what we might expect for 2012.

Josh Willingham

Jason Catania discussed him a bit yesterday, but I wanted to look a little more in-depth. Willingham is a free agent this off-season and has always hit in pitcher’s park. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from posting a .214 career ISO, but it will still be interesting to see where he ends up. Willingham is an extreme fly ball hitter, which is what you love to see from a power guy, though it does hurt one’s BABIP, and resulting batting average. His HR/FB has jumped around between 11.3% in 2010 to a career high 17.5% this past season. It would probably be wise to assume a bit of decline in his FB% (maybe to the mid-40% mark, rather than high-40%), while his HR/FB dips as well, though his new home park may have some effect here.

The good news is that although those two factors would take a bite out of his home run total, his contact rate should improve from its career worst mark. As Jason mentioned, health is the key for Willingham, but if it cooperates, another season of mid-20 home run production to follow. And if all the stars align, he does have the skills to clear the 30-homer plateau for the first time.

Logan Morrison

After hitting just two home runs in all of 2010 (albeit in just 244 at-bats), Morrison surprised many by swatting 23 out of the park this season. But maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised. In early 2009, he fractured his right wrist, causing him to miss two months of action and he complained of continued soreness during spring training in 2010. This would help to explain the power outage. In 2007 in Single-A, he hit 24 homers in 453 at-bats with a .216 ISO, so the power skills had certainly been displayed before. That said, he needs to hit more fly balls to increase my confidence in the power being sustainable, and it is hard to believe he will come close to repeating an 18.1% HR/FB ratio.

He should absolutely see more at-bats next season, assuming he doesn’t miss another meet-and-greet or have a Twitter battle with new manager Ozzie Guillen. So although the rate of homers is sure to decrease, his increased playing time should ensure another season of 20+ homers. Factor in a .265 BABIP that should jump and you have a guy who may even yield a profit versus his draft day cost.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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“In early 2009, he fractured his right wrist, causing him to miss two months of action and he complained of continued soreness during spring training in 2010. This would help to explain the power outage.”

seems like something that gets said about every player with a wrist or hamate injury. has anyone done a study of before/after slugging regarding wrist injuries?

Brad Johnson

There’s a lot of work on the subject, to the point where I don’t think anyone really knows where to link back to.

Bottom line, wrist injuries significantly sap power for about one year after recovery, although it’s different for everyone. Sometimes a Troy Tulowitzki comes back and pops 15 home runs in a month, but usually guys come back and suffer from decreased power and BABIP as they struggle to make firm contact.