Josh Willingham
Josh Willingham
40-Year-Old OutfielderOF
 Free Agent  
Free Agent
2019 Fantasy Outlook
There was no outlook written for Josh Willingham in 2019. Check out the latest news below for more on his current fantasy value.
$Traded from Minnesota to Kansas City in August 2014.
Josh Willingham: Announces Retirement
OFFree Agent  
November 24, 2014
Willingham announced his retirement from baseball Monday, ESPN reports.
ANALYSIS
Willingham reportedly received an offer from a contending team to return for the 2015 season, but chose to call it quits instead. The 35-year-old played with five different ball clubs over the course of his career and won a Silver Slugger award while with the Twins in 2012. Willingham hit .215/.346/.397 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 2014 and .253/.358/.397 with 195 home runs and 632 RBI over his 11-year major league career.
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Willingham came over to Kansas City from Minnesota in an August trade, and proceeded to slash .233/.349/.384 with two home runs over 73 at-bats with his new team. He served as the primary designated hitter when Eric Hosmer was on the shelf with a hand injury, and even stole a bit of playing time from the slumping Billy Butler towards the end of the season. Injures have always been problematic for the soon-to-be 36-year-old, and he once again missed significant time due to hand/wrist issues while with the Twins. However, when healthy, Willingham poses a significant power threat, and also displays patience at the plate, sporting a 14.6 percent walk rate in 2014. Willingham announced his retirement at the end of 2014, but that could all change if he receives a tempting short-term contract next spring.
Willingham will try to bounce back from an injury-plagued and disappointing season as he enters the final year of his contract as the left fielder for the Twins. Willingham began last season by hitting just .224/.356/.398 with 10 home runs in the first three months as he played through a sore knee. He finally had surgery in early July to repair a medial meniscus tear and bone bruise in his left knee. When he returned in August he did even worse at the plate by hitting .182/.318/.315 with four home runs in 41 games. Willingham was coming off a career year in 2012 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI, but more importantly the injury-prone player appeared in a career-high 145 games. When healthy, he's always drawn walks, which helps offset a high amount of strikeouts, and has exceptional power. He's entering the final year of a three-year deal, so it would seem highly likely he'll be traded during the season as the Twins rebuild.
Willingham had a career year in 2012 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI as he stayed healthy and his right-handed pull power was a surprisingly good fit for Target Field. Willingham missed significant playing time with knee and back injuries the previous three seasons, but stayed healthy and played 145 games – a career high. He's always been great at drawing walks, which helps offset a high amount of strikeouts. Willingham has always had exceptional power (24th in ISO among qualified batters since 2009) and his dead-pull hitting to left field – the easiest area to hit a home run at Target Field – defied a trend that had made Minnesota's home park one of the tougher places to leave the yard. It is hard to argue with the results at the plate, but his fielding could move him to DH at some point. His team-friendly three-year, $21 million contract also had his name come up frequently in trade talks as he is a player the Twins could move to rebuild. However, the Twins say it would take a ton to trade him so he will return as the starting left fielder while trying to repeat his career year.
Willingham missed some time midseason with a strained Achilles but still managed a career-high 29 homers and 98 RBI. His road numbers (.233/.315/.435) trailed his home numbers by a good bit, but his 18 homers in the second half no doubt earned him a few extra bucks in free agency. He signed a three-year deal with Minnesota; still not a great home park but no worse than Oakland, so expect more of the same if he can stay healthy.
For the third straight year, Willingham had trouble staying healthy but this time it was his knee that acted up, not his back. It's a shame too, as he was putting together an exceptional season (.281/.411/.502 in the first half) before the injury derailed his breakout. Now in the AL with Oakland, a move out of the outfield and to first base, or even DH, might be the best plan to try to keep him in one piece for a full season to see what he can do.
Willingham was a little healthier in 2009 and returned to his 20-homer ways, which is the good news. The bad news is that he's a not-terribly athletic former catcher who's about to turn 31, and such players tend to have shorter shelf lives than you expect. With Adam Dunn still around as a weak defensive corner outfielder/first baseman he's already squeezed for playing time, so last year's production for Willingham probably represents more of a ceiling than a median.
Willingham's back continued to act up last year, costing him significant playing time for the first time in his career. He didn't seem to lose any power though, and he seemed healthy enough in the offseason that the Nationals were willing to trade for him. He'll provide an instant upgrade over Austin Kearns on offense provided he can stay in the lineup, although there's nothing in his home/road splits the last couple of years to indicate he'll get a boost from leaving spacious Dolphin Stadium. You'll need to have some insurance on hand for his back, but Willingham should once again provide power at a bargain price in 2009.
Willingham lost a little bit of batting average and SLG off his 2006 numbers, possibly due to back and knee problems that flared up in June and September, and while he'll never be a superstar his 20-plus HR power would still be a nice fit in a lot of lineups. Don't get too excited about his eight steals in nine attempts though, as he's never shown in any speed in his career prior to 2007. If his back continues to act up, the Marlins may also consider shifting the converted catcher to first base to save some wear and tear.
The Marlins briefly toyed with the idea of using Willingham as a part-time catcher, but eventually decided to let him get comfortable playing left field on a full-time basis. Fantasy owners will mourn the loss of his catcher eligibility but it's hard to argue with the results, as Willingham banged out the kind of offensive season he'd longed been projected to achieve. His unspectacular batting eye leaves him prone to streakiness, but he probably hasn't quite hit his ceiling yet.
Finally, finally, the Marlins have cleared a path for Willingham to become a regular in their lineup. He's decimated upper minor league pitching for three seasons now, and at 27 he's only got a few years left in which to make an impact in the bigs. Florida will let him try to claim the starting catching position first, but if his defense doesn't hold up he could find himself in a Craig Wilson-like "regular utility" role, playing almost every day if not necessarily in the same spot. Just so long as he rakes, the Marlins will live with the occasional defensive gaffe.
Willingham had a great year at the plate for Double-A Carolina, but in a brief trial with the Marlins showed how raw he is behind it. He figures to be a utility player/third catcher more than a regular big league backstop, but that stage of his career could start as early as 2005.
He continued his development at the plate while playing four different positions and dealing with knee surgery. He was used mainly as a catcher in the Arizona Fall League though, which is where the Marlins want him -- look for him to get his first taste of the majors some time this year.
Willingham put together a nice season at High-A, hitting .274/.394/.487, but at 23 that's what he should have done at bare minimum. He played three positions in 2002, and if he isn't derailed by Double-A, he figures to be a useful utility player in a couple of years.
More Fantasy News
Josh Willingham: Plans to Retire
OFKansas City Royals  
September 25, 2014
Willingham has told people close to him he plans to retire at the end of the season, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
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OFKansas City Royals  
September 14, 2014
Willingham is not in the lineup for Sunday's game against the Red Sox, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
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OFKansas City Royals  
September 6, 2014
Willingham (ribs) is back in the lineup Saturday against the Yankees, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports.
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OFKansas City Royals  
Ribs
September 5, 2014
Willingham (ribs) remains out of the lineup Friday.
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OFKansas City Royals  
Ribs
September 2, 2014
Willingham (ribs) took batting practice Tuesday and was available off the bench, the Associated Press reports.
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