Outfielder Josh Willingham had an excellent first season with the Minnesota Twins in 2012, setting career-highs in home runs (35), RBI (110), runs scored (85) and, perhaps most notably, games played (145) and plate appearances (615). Despite some tepid offseason speculation that he could be traded, he will be back with the Twins in 2013.
So can fantasy baseball owners draft Willingham expecting a repeat in 2013? Let’s take a closer look.
Despite playing in a pitcher-friendly home park in Target Field, Willingham actually performed significantly better at home (.293, 21 home runs, 63 RBI, .610 slugging percentage) as opposed to on the road (.230, 14 home runs, 47 RBI, .444 slugging percentage) last season, despite having a similar amount of games played and at-bats. Willingham is no stranger to performing well despite playing roughly half his games in a pitcher-friendly park, as he set his previous career-highs in home runs (29) and RBI (98) with the Oakland Athletics in 2011.
From a fantasy perspective, Willingham does not offer much in batting average (.261 career) and even less in stolen bases (32 for his career), but his home run, RBI and even runs scored totals are likely to be helpful to mixed league owners. Back issues that bothered him earlier in his career appear to be a thing of the past, but he will be 34 years old before the season starts and did miss the last few games of last season with a shoulder issue. The biggest risk involved in drafting Willingham involves the increased likelihood of injury at his age, and his draft day price is likely to be high coming off last season.
Many fantasy owners may point to Willingham as an obvious bust pick for 2013, but that assessment really comes down to how expectations are set for him. He is unlikely to produce another season like 2012, but somewhere close is not impossible this season if he stays healthy. All things considered, even with some durability concerns, those that draft Willingham expecting 20-25 home runs, 85-90 RBI and around 80 runs scored should not be disappointed when the season ends.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.