Lucas Duda (Yahoo: 5 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent owned)
While the Mets likely weren’t planning on having Duda at first for a large portion of their season, that’s the way things have shaken out in Queens. He struggled to make a mark with the inconsistent playing time he got in the early part of the season, but since the Mets have committed to him being in the lineup nearly everyday on July 28, he has rewarded them with a solid line of .288/.364/.500. While that’s a serviceable line, Duda wasn’t providing the power typically associated with first basemen…until August rolled around.
Duda has hit three of his five home runs since August 1, including jacks on back-to-back days, the last of which was a sizable smash in San Diego. It’s this new power that has made him a person of interest, as without it, he’s a decidedly less interesting option. The power first showed up last season, when Duda hit 40 doubles and 23 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, so this year’s outbreak isn’t unprecedented, in fact, Duda hit five home runs in the last 10 games before his call up after having hit only five total in April and May.
It isn’t as though Duda raked all through the minors and is just now getting a chance to do it in the pros. He had shown good doubles power, but the home runs are a relatively new addition, which makes it somewhat harder to predict whether they’re going to persist. His hot month overstates his ability, but 15-20 given a full season of consistent playing time doesn’t seem outlandish. Anything more than about 3 HR a month is a bonus.
His low ownership makes him a possibility in almost any league and while I’d certainly rather have him over someone like Brett Wallace or Adam Kennedy (both owned at the same 5 percent rate as Duda on Yahoo), I’d rather pick up Mike Carp if he’s still available.
Josh Willingham (Yahoo: 34 percent owned, ESPN: 74 percent owned)
Most of the guys investigated in this space are having a strong month so far, but Willingham is something of an exception. He’s playing well enough lately to merit attention, but on the heels of a July where he hit .324/.429/.618, a line of .233/.299/.550 in August seems to pale by comparison. Nevertheless, Willingham is continuing to show good power in the middle of the Athletics’ order, having recorded 9 XBH in 15 games this month.
While his power is certainly playable, that .233 batting average is less inspiring. It isn’t quite Mark Reynolds-esque (Reynolds is 11-for-59 this month, but seven of his 11 hits have gone for extra bases, including 4 HR) but it’s ungood enough to worry about. His monthly BABIP is .273, a 50 point drop from his stellar July, due largely to a bloated IFFB% of 27 percent, something that should fall more in line with his career rate of 12 percent sooner rather than later.
That high pop-up rate, as well as a season high strike out rate, and season low walk rate makes it seem as though Willingham is just being a bit too aggressive at the plate. He doesn’t need to overhaul his game, just to be a bit more patient at the plate, and his batting average should rise out of worrisome territory. If you’re in a league that penalizes for strikeouts, however, Willingham may not be the best player to target. This month, he has as many three strikeout games as he does games in which he drew a walk, and that’s a fairly substantial price to pay for the level of production Willingham is likely to give you the rest of the way.
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