Pitchers and catchers have reported which means it is time to delve into all, yes all, sorts of fantasy baseball argle bargle! So what is the argle bargle du jour? Well, that would be the outfield position.
Otherwise known as, arguably the deepest position in fantasy baseball, not just because of the mere talent level of outfielders but also because, in the offensive category there are just plain more of them. It would be hard to argue that the easiest place to find some hidden offensive gem is in the outfield. Wouldn’t it? Plus many of the early round talents are outfielders. I mean the list of fantasy studs in the outfield is pretty darned good. Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Josh Willingham…..wha, wha, wha, what?! Josh Willingham? Yes, do not adjust your screens, I said Josh Willingham. Josh is a fantasy diamond in the rough!
Okay, maybe J-Dubs is not your traditional fantasy stud, per se, but he is definitely a guy many of your opponents may overlook. In several places I have seen his current average draft position in the high 80s, mostly drafted behind about 20-25 some odd other outfielders, which could end up being a big steal for you come draft day. Willingham quietly put up a very solid 2012 with the Twinkies, probably because, well, not many people were paying much attention to the Twinkies as a whole. Mmmm, Twinkies…. Umm, well, in case you missed hit, here is what Willingham did last season:
35 HRs (4th among OFs)
110 RBIs (3rd among OFs)
.890 OPS (4th among OFs)
143 wRC+ (4th among OFs)
.366 OBP (12th among OFs)
Yes, I realize wRC+ is not used in fantasy baseball, but it is certainly not irrelevant stat for drafting a fantasy team. Take it for what you will, but here were the no name outfield leaders in wRC+ in 2012:
Not bad company for Willingham, huh? Now, I know what you may be thinking, “but Will, that’s only one season, there’s no saying he can duplicate that in 2013!” Well, first off, I am not sure why you are yelling at me, but to your point I would say, to be fair, that there is never a guarantee that a player can duplicate any season. Regardless of whether or not a player has a decent track record, anything can and will happen from one season to the next, but was this just one season for Willingham? Let’s go and see, shall we? That’s rhetorical, folks, see, we shall, and see right now, we will! Wow, sorry for Yoda taking over this post for a hot second. Where were we? Oh yeah, Josh Willingham.
If Willingham gets over 400 ABs he will get you 20+ dingers. In 2011, he socked 29 dingers, so the 35 is not completely out of left field, where, as it happens, Willingham plays most of the time, so I guess they were out of left field in a way. The 29 long balls in 2011 were only good for 11th amongst all outfielders, but that is still pretty good. Remember he is looking to be around the 25th (or so) outfielder coming off the ol’ board in 2013 fantasy baseball drafts. There is more to life and, to a lesser degree, fantasy baseball, than home runs. Okay, well, Willingham also drove in 98 runs in 2011, good for sixth amongst all outfielders. So you can at the very least get some cheap pop out of the big lug. Obviously the lack of steals and batting average do hurt his case a bit, but his .260 average from 2012 is not too debilitating and minus his ’08 and ’11 seasons he has hit .260 or higher every season, which is not atrocious by any means. If you are not old-fashioned sitting in a 5 x 5 league with batting average as a stat then sure his stock will drop some. If you are in a league that at least has OPS and or OBP, then Willingham is absolutely, undoubtedly, positively the sleeper outfielder for you!
Although his career batting average is .261, he has been able to get on base at a .362 clip, proving he has a bit of patience at the plate. Plus he has not had an OPS under .810 in the majors since he became an everyday player in 2006. On that front only twice in those seasons did he post an OPS under .834. Okay, not a much bigger number, but nevertheless, a good one. Statistically there are no signs that 2012 was a giant fluke for Willingham, although the home runs may drop off a bit into the mid-to late twenties (I’m calling 27 right now!), the rest of the numbers are pretty legit, even the runs! Willingham scored 85 runs. On the Twins. The 22nd in the majors in runs, Minnesota Twins, for crying out loud! Okay, okay, maybe I am getting a tad bit carried away here. Alright, alright, so the 85 runs may dip a bit as well. In fact, well, the RBIs may fall off a smidge too. So, 2012 may not quite be duplicated by Josh, but I think he is an outfield sleeper come draft day, regardless, mark my words!
Look, I am not saying that Josh Willingham is a top ten fantasy player. Heck, I am not even saying he is a top ten fantasy outfielder. Although that could depend in large part to what stats you use in your league. In any event people, what I am saying is that you could still be getting a steal (but not steals) in the middle rounds with Josh Willingham. Here is what I am projecting for J-Will in 2013: .258/.363/.480, 27 HRs, 90 RBIs and 78 runs. Now, I am certainly not the greatest prognosticator in the world. Far from it, I would wager. Be that as it may, I like to think I am in the ballpark with Willingham’s numbers and if I am (and 63% of the time I am right every time) then those are darned decent numbers to grab in the early 8th round in a 12 team league. So you are welcome for starting you on the path to a fantasy baseball championship!