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Hardy & Willingham: Waiver Wire

Let’s kick off the week by looking at personal favorites you’ll be able to find sitting in your free agent pool or on the waiver wire…

J.J. Hardy | Orioles | SS | Ownership: 27% Yahoo!, 52.5% ESPN

Shortstops are always in high demand, but even moreso now with Hanley Ramirez‘s disappointing season (and injury) and Derek Jeter‘s continued fall from stardom. Hardy picked a great time to return to his 2007-2008 form, not just for fantasy owners but also for himself; he’s up for free agency after the season. He got bit by the oblique strain bug early in the season, but since returning on May 10th, he’s hit a stout .298/.372/.482 with six homers in 130 PA. A lot of it just has to do with simple park effects and a slight change in his batted ball profile…

Hardy’s hitting more balls in the air than he has in the last few seasons, which is great because Camden Yards favors right-handed batters that do just that (129 HR factor, 106 wOBA factor for RHB according to StatCorner). He’s shown an ISO north of .180 before (back in his glory years with the Brewers), and his 10.2% walk rate is his best since his rookie year but not outrageously compared to the rest of his career (8.2%). He’ll turn 29 in August, so he’s right in the prime of his career and this could easily be his career year. Even if Hardy regresses back his rest of season ZiPS projection (.269/.327/.424 with nine homers and a .331 wOBA), he’s still a valuable guy to have given his position; just five other shortstops project to go deep that many times the rest of the way.

Josh Willingham | Athletics | OF | Ownership: 30% Yahoo!, 44.2% ESPN

The Athletics are falling apart at the seams, having lost 12 of their last 13 games and recently firing their manager. Their .293 wOBA as a team is the third worst in baseball, and their only regular with a better than league average (.319) wOBA is Willingham at .329. He’s a stone cold AVG killer (.235), which is due in part to Oakland’s spacious foul territory, but he’s never been a guy that will help you much in that category either (just .262 career). Willingham is a legit RBI guy though, with ten homers and 41 drive in so far, the 22nd most in baseball and 12th most in the AL. That’s he’s been able to do that given the rest of his team is pretty cool. ZiPS rest of the year projection calls for him to basically repeat what he’s done so far (.239 AVG, ten homers, 38 RBI), but there’s a wildcard in play here: Willingham is a prime candidate to be traded. He could find himself playing for a contender (and theoretically hitting in a better ballpark and lineup) within a month, which would boost his value almost instantly. There’s no doubt he can hit the ball a long way, and that will always have value from a third outfield spot.