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 September 2nd, 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. This week's mixed league list includes an injury fill-in in Texas, a few rookies set to be September contributors, and a pair of veteran starting pitchers who just finished surprisingly hot August performances.
*Owned percentages via Yahoo!
David Murphy - OF, Texas Rangers (17% owned)
Lefty-hitting Rangers outfielder David Murphy is set to see a lot more regular playing time in the Rangers outfield after his teammate Nelson Cruz was placed on the disabled list, and the bump in at-bats could be quite valuable to fantasy owners. At times throughout his career, Murphy has struggled against lefthanded pitching, but 2011 has been especially tough for him as he has hit just a .179 average (15 for 84) against southpaws this season. However, the 29 year-old Houston native has hit .282 with seven home runs and 30 RBI in 227 at-bats against righthanded pitchers and in prior years has proven that, even as a part-time player with fewer than 500 plate appearances, he is capable of a passable batting average and 15-plus home runs per season. He'll see a lot of duty in right field until Cruz returns, and fantasy owners should start him with confidence, provided Texas isn't facing a tough lefthander (when Murphy will either be ineffective or possibly benched).
Mike Trout - OF, Los Angeles Angels (16% owned)
After a lackluster 14 game major league audition when he hit just .163 in July, many analysts and fans figured that 19 year-old top Angels prospect Mike Trout wasn't ready to play at the game's top level just yet. But since rejoining the big club on August 19th, the now 20 year-old Trout has performed significantly better and has caught the attention of fantasy owners. Trout has ten hits and four home runs in 28 at-bats since that date and, though he hasn't shown any of the basestealing prowess that allowed him to swipe 56 minor league bags in 2010 and 33 more this season, he looks more comfortable at the plate and is playing superior defense in center field. Continued at-bats and more action on the basepaths could make Trout into a five-category fantasy contributor.
Dayan Viciedo - 3B, Chicago White Sox (12% owned)
White Sox hitting prospect Dayan Viciedo was featured in our AL Under the Radar back in late June (when there were rumblings of an impending call-up) and was the subject of a recent Prospect Press piece, so it's no surprise the the 22 year-old slugger is appearing in our mixed league list this week. Viciedo has very little left to prove in the minor leagues and, after a promising .308/.329/.519 triple-slash (average/on-base/slugging) line and five home runs in just 104 at-bats last year, he's impressing again this season. In four games since being recalled, Viciedo is 7 for 13 with a home run and four RBI as Chicago's rightfielder and designated hitter. He's listed as a third baseman in most leagues, so a few more games in the outfield will only add to his value when he achieves eligibility there. Over a full season, Viciedo has twenty-plus home run power and could push for even more, and fantasy owners in search of a late-season power boost should certainly give him plenty of consideration.
Yonder Alonso - 1B, Cincinnati Reds (2% owned)
Reds prospect Yonder Alonso, after years of being blocked from promotion by first baseman Joey Votto, is finally getting a real chance at the major league level and, so far, is making the most of it. Since Votto is clearly not going anywhere soon, Alonso worked a lot as a leftfielder in the minor leagues and recently even played third base for the first time in his professional career, so it's clear that the Reds are determined to get his bat into the lineup. Alonso doesn't have top-level power or contact numbers, but he hit .293 in his minor league career and his .370 on-base mark on the farm is a reflection of his advanced plate discipline and understanding of the mental side of batting. He should be capable of 15 to 20 home runs over a full season. In the meantime, fantasy owners can certainly count on him to provide quality at-bats and RBI chances in the Reds lineup, and he could soon be eligible to slot at an outfield and/or third base spot.
Alejandro de Aza - OF, Chicago White Sox (4% owned)
One of the more unexpected hot-hitting big leaguers right now is White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza, a 27 year-old speedster who formerly played with the Florida Marlins. De Aza has battled several career injuries since 2007, when he was named the surprise starting centerfielder with the Marlins, but his consistent .300-plus batting average, stolen base ability, and strong outfield play in the minors helped him force his way onto another big league roster. He was hitting .322 with nine home runs and 22 stolen bases with Triple-A Charlotte prior to his late-July call-up to the White Sox, and in 76 at-bats (28 games) with the big club he has already tallied three home runs, 14 RBI, and five steals. The lefthanded batter has multiple hits in six of his last thirteen contests and is hitting .378 in that span. His current hot streak should keep him in the lineup on most days and he could be a source of good batting average and speed numbers for fantasy owners, with a little home run potential too.
Rod Barajas - C, Los Angeles Dodgers (8% owned)
For the past few seasons, veteran catcher Rod Barajas has quietly been a solid home run-hitting backstop, and 2011 is really no different. Despite a batting average under .250, from 2004 to 2010 Barajas smacked 98 career home runs (good for 14 per season) and has provided more than one fantasy owner with a reliable bit of offensive help from an otherwise generally poor-producing position. With 15 long balls and a .241 batting mark, Barajas' 2011 numbers are currently in line with his career stats, with one big difference: he has been red-hot since the end of July. Since July 23rd, Barajas has hit .349 with seven homers and 20 RBI, raising his season batting average 35 points and almost doubling his season home run total. He's clearly playing over his head right now, but fantasy owners in need of a fill-in at catcher or just a hot power bat may want to add him to their rosters.
R.A. Dickey - SP, New York Mets (20% owned)
With 11 wins and a 2.84 season ERA last season, Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was one of baseball's biggest pleasant surprises, but a rough start to his 2011 campaign somewhat soured his value among fans and fantasy owners. However, despite a lack of wins for his lowly New York club, Dickey has actually been pretty solid this year and just wrapped up an excellent August. In 19 starts since May 20th, the 36 year-old righthander has a 2.93 ERA, though that has resulted in just a 5-6 win-loss record. Furthermore, in 33 1/3 August innings, he posted a 2.70 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP (he had just one win in that span). Best of all, other than a doubleheader against the Braves on September 8th, the Mets face the Marlins, Cubs, and Nationals until the 15th, meaning there could be some very good matchups on the way. He's far from an ideal pickup, but fantasy clubs looking to fill innings and help their ERA and WHIP numbers may want to knuckle up and add Dickey to their rosters, especially since he's long overdue to pile up a few wins.
Bruce Chen - SP, Kansas City Royals (17% owned)
While 34 year-old Royals hurler Bruce Chen might be an unlikely fantasy baseball contributor, there's no denying that his five-start winning streak, highlighted by a six-inning, one-hit victory over Chicago and strong outings against the playoff-bound Tigers and Yankees, is worthy of attention. He leaves some to be desired with just a 5.8 strikeouts-per-nine innings (K/9) rate this season, but he has 25 whiffs in 32 innings during his recent winning streak and his 2.81 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in that span is certainly valuable. He'll face the Indians this Friday and the Royals have road series against the Athletics and Mariners next week, so if a fantasy owner were ever going to pick up Chen, now would be the time.
Santiago Casilla - RP, San Francisco Giants (8% owned)
It appears that Giants closer Brian Wilson will not return on Wednesday when he is eligible to come off of the disabled list, which means that the team will continue to close by committee. Many analysts speculated that lefthander Jeremy Affeldt would get the bulk of the team's save chances, but 31 year-old righty Santiago Casilla tallied two saves last week and might be the primary stopper until his teammate is back. Over the past two months, Casilla has been one of baseball's hottest relievers and has allowed just one run in 21 games (23 2/3 innings) since July 4th, good for a 0.38 ERA. As we approach the final month of play, fantasy owners with roster room who are looking to scrape up a few quantitative statistics and move up in the standings would be wise to consider Casilla. Even if he doesn't get too many saves, he can still help in the ERA and WHIP categories, with a few strikeouts as well.
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