Each week, Baseball Press will be providing some "under the radar" fantasy players for NL-only leagues, AL-only leagues and mixed leagues. We'll review the diamonds in the rough on the waiver wire that might help you boost your fantasy team in 2011.
Under the Radar - Mixed Leagues
Friday August 19th, 2011
With all of the unpredictable injuries, slumps, and job changes, many fantasy owners are looking to the waiver wire for help in keeping their season hopes alive. Here are some mixed league options for owners looking to make additions at this point in the season.
*Owned percentages via Yahoo!
Bobby Parnell - RP, New York Mets (12% owned)
Mets reliever Bobby Parnell was mentioned with teammate Jason Isringhausen in our Under the Radar article just a few weeks ago, which came out shortly after incumbent closer Francisco Rodriguez was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. At that point, it was unclear who would be getting saves for New York, but now that the veteran Isringhausen has cracked the 300 career saves mark, the club has committed to testing out the 26 year-old Parnell in the role of game-finisher. Over the last month, Parnell hasn't been very strong and his ERA has ballooned from 2.70 on July 19th to 4.20 entering play on Friday, but he has continued to strike out hitters at a rate of over one per inning and he has 50 strikeouts in 40 2/3 frames this season. He's not the ideal choice for fantasy clubs in need of saves, but owners looking for a push in that category during the last couple of months of play don't have many options right now, and Parnell is still available in a surprisingly large percentage of leagues.
Jeremy Affeldt - RP, San Francisco Giants (3% owned)
Another option for owners chasing saves this late in the season is Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who figures to get some chances to finish games while regular closer Brian Wilson deals with elbow troubles. The 32 year-old lefthander might end up splitting some duty with righty Ramon Ramirez, but Affeldt's experience likely puts him slightly ahead of his teammate with regard to high-leverage situations. As of the writing of this piece, Wilson's fate was still very unclear, but if he does require a larger stint out of action or on the disabled list, Affeldt could be a hot fantasy commodity. Savvy owners with an available roster spot will act before their competition and make a move now. There's very little downside to being proactive with possible closers, and even if Affeldt doesn't get any saves, one could still benefit from his other impressive numbers. Since the start of June, Affeldt has a 1.04 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 33 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings, good for an 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate, all of which would be helpful to any fantasy squad.
Randy Wolf - SP, Milwaukee Brewers (33% owned)
Despite losing the final game of their four-game series against the Dodgers, the Milwaukee Brewers have been the hottest team in baseball lately and the starting pitching has been very impressive in that time. Often lost in the shuffle of the red-hot pitching, though, is fourth starter Randy Wolf. The lefthander has won his last four starts and, after an eight-inning scoreless outing against the Dodgers on Monday, he lowered his season ERA to 3.30. Wolf also has a 2.34 ERA in six starts since the all-star break and a 1.86 mark in those four wins since July 29th. Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum have gotten most of the acclaim for Milwaukee's surprising starting staff, but smart fantasy owners trying to ride the Brewers' success have certainly remembered Wolf, but he's still available in a lot of leagues. With upcoming series against the Mets, Pirates, and Cubs, it's possible that Milwaukee will stay hot, so Wolf is still certainly worth fantasy consideration right now.
Ryan Raburn - OF/2B, Detroit Tigers (21% owned)
Tigers outfielder/infielder Ryan Raburn has quietly crept back to fantasy relevance again, thanks to the .315 average and four home runs he's hit since July 7th. Though he sometimes finds himself relegated to bench duty, Raburns solid power numbers and versatility have been helpful to fantasy owners in the past, as evidenced by his .291, 16 homer season in 261 at-bats in 2009 and his .280, 15 homer, 371 at-bat campaign last year. This year, Raburn has 11 home runs and is eligible at second base and in the outfield, plus his four starts at third base might indicate another possible spot of eligibility. This all makes him a valuable fill-in utility man in the mold of Ty Wigginton or Ryan Roberts, particularly on fantasy rosters suffering from injuries or in need of a player on sparsely scheduled Mondays and Thursdays.
Casper Wells - OF, Seattle Mariners (5% owned)
When one thinks of major leaguers capable of stringing together consecutive home run game streaks, Seattle outfielder Casper Wells doesn't usually spring to mind. However, the 26 year-old slugged homers in four straight games from August 13th through August 16th and has been very impressive since being traded to the Mariners as part of the deal that sent pitcher Doug Fister to Detroit. In 13 games for his new squad, Wells has hit .326 with 5 home runs and 12 RBI and is finally fulfilling some of the potential he showed when he hit .323 in a 36-game stint with the Tigers at the end of last year. For all of the good things with his new club, a particularly bad one occurred Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays when Wells was struck on the nose by a Brandon Morrow fastball. He left the game with a bloody face and it ended his home run streak, but X-rays were negative and he's expected to return to action this weekend. It's quite likely that the incident with Morrow has scared off some owners, so now is a perfect time for fantasy clubs in need of an outfield bat to take full advantage of Wells and his hot hitting.
Ryan Doumit - C/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (10% owned)
Due to injuries and an emphasis on defense over offense, catcher is traditionally one of fantasy baseball's weaker positions. Fantasy owners seeking help in that area are now beginning to look at Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit, who has been very impressive at the plate since returning from the disabled list. Doumit has played at first base and in the outfield a lot throughout his injury-riddled career, but he has seen time exclusively behind the plate for the Pirates this season and is once again showing that, when healthy, his hitting talents are legitimate. He has six home runs in just 125 at-bats this season and is hitting .280 entering play on Friday, and he could be a very valuable pickup for fantasy teams in need of a catcher, particularly for owners who need the flexibility of sometimes putting him in the outfield.
Will Venable - OF, San Diego Padres (6% owned)
The San Diego Padres are not a team with a lot of fantasy baseball help on the offensive side, but the recent play of outfielder Will Venable is starting to change some of that. Venable started 2011 by compiling stolen bases, but his .242 batting average prior to the all-star break made his 15 first-half steals far less appealing to fantasy owners. But in 27 games since then, Venable has hit .304 with a pair of home runs, four doubles, three triples, and seven more steals, raising his season average to .260. He had 13 homers and 29 steals last season so, despite the sub-standard batting average, Venable has value in a couple of fantasy categories. He's hitting .326 so far this month and could be primed for a strong late-season finish.
Nathan Eovaldi - SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (5% owned)
Jumping directly from Double-A to the big leagues isn't usually a good thing for young pitchers, but 21 year-old Dodgers hurler Nathan Eovaldi has made it look quite easy so far. In three starts since his promotion, Eovaldi has a 1-1 win-loss record with just 4 runs allowed in 17 innings, good for a 2.12 ERA. His major league debut was a five-inning, seven-strikeout victory over the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks and, after a six-inning scoreless outing versus the lowly Astros, he had a solid six-inning, two-run loss against the scorching-hot Milwaukee Brewers. Eovaldi was not considered a top prospect entering this season, but his 2.62 ERA and 8.7 K/9 rate for Chattanooga in the Southern League were very impressive and motivated his call-up following an injury to another young hurler, Rubby De La Rosa. Eovaldi works primarily with a mid-90s fastball and a high-80s slider, but they've been very effective pitches for him against a pair of high-powered offenses and, with the Dodgers set to take on the Rockies and Padres in three of their four remaining August series, Eovaldi could be a smart fantasy pickup or streaming option in mixed leagues.
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