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 16th, 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 features a group of relievers who may be in line for some saves down the stretch, and some hitters who could boost fantasy batting categories for squads in need.
*Owned percentages via Yahoo!
Kenley Jansen - RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (8% owned)
Injuries and ineffectiveness from once-dominant Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton earlier this season were initially thought to be the first step to the club making 23 year-old Kenley Jansen into a full-time closer, but it certainly didn't work out that way. After a dynamic 2010 debut in which he posted a 0.67 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched, Jansen struggled with control and command and limped to a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings before being demoted at the end of May. He returned to the Dodgers on June 18th and, other than missing three weeks due to an irregular heartbeat, he has been a dominant force out of their bullpen. In 27 innings since that return, Jansen has logged a 0.67 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 27 innings of work, allowing just 9 hits. Rookie Javy Guerra has had an excellent season since taking over as the club's closer, but he lacks prototypical closer dominance. Kenley looks like the team's "closer of the future" and his elite strikeout numbers are an asset to any fantasy owner, even if he and Guerra end up splitting ninth inning work between now and the end of the year.
Marco Scutaro - SS/2B, Boston Red Sox (29% owned)
Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro has carved out a solid major league career and was featured in an Under the Radar piece back in June, but has never been a big run producer or major fantasy contributor throughout his career. However, his red-hot September hitting makes him well worth a look right now in many leagues. This month, Scutaro is 20 for 45 at the plate and has raised his season average from .272 to .294. If he finishes the 2011 season at .294, it would be the highest season mark of his career. Furthermore, the 35 year-old's 16 RBI this month is already the highest he has tallied since August of 2007, when he had 20. Scutaro is eligible at both shortstop and second base in most leagues, and his red-hot September hitting could definitely help out any fantasy team in need of some late-season help in the middle infield.
Joel Peralta - RP, Tampa Bay Rays (6% owned)
With his teammate Kyle Farnsworth ailing, veteran Rays reliever Joel Peralta has stepped in and collected some saves for Tampa Bay, making him immediately worth some fantasy consideration. Peralta is 36 and has had some ups and downs since first making the majors as a 29 year-old with the Angels back in 2005, but his last two major league campaigns have been excellent and, in 111 1/3 big league innings since the start of 2010, he has a 2.67 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and 105 strikeouts. He's often worked as a closer in his minor league stops and, while not flashy, he appears to be first in line to work the end-game role for the Rays until Farnsworth's return. Fantasy owners looking to scoop up some cheap saves should definitely add him if he is available.
Jim Johnson - RP, Baltimore Orioles (8% owned)
Struggles by incumbent closer Kevin Gregg have forced the Orioles to look elsewhere for a stopper, and 28 year-old righthander Jim Johnson has answered the call. Johnson has collected four saves since September 7th, giving him six for the year, and he could be Baltimore's top ninth inning guy from now until the end of the year. Johnson has had stints as the club's closer before (he collected 10 saves back in 2009) but he lacks dominance or big strikeout numbers and has mostly worked as a capable setup man. Still, his 2.68 ERA this season is impressive and is a stark improvement over the 3.42 mark he had last year. Upcoming series against the Angels, Red Sox, and Tigers may not equal a lot of wins for the O's from here on, but fantasy saves are hard to come by right now and Johnson could certainly snag a few.
Jon Jay - OF, St. Louis Cardinals (12% owned)
Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay was featured in our Under the Radar - Mixed Leagues piece on June 3rd when his teammate Matt Holliday went on the disabled list, and he once again became fantasy relevant this week due to his hot hitting and another injury to Holliday. Holliday is slated to miss four or five days due to a hand injury he suffered while taking practice swings, but Jay is more than just a simple fill-in. The lefthanded hitter has been excellent in September with 19 hits in 42 at-bats, including multiple hits in eight of 12 games. He already has a pair of home runs this month and it appears that Jay's September might resemble what he did back in May, when he hit .397 with four long balls. The reserve outfielder has 10 homers and is hitting .311 for the season, and in parts of two MLB campaigns totaling 774 plate appearances he has 14 homers and a .306 average. Jay has been used primarily against just righthanded pitching thus far as a big leaguer, but with Holliday out and a red-hot bat, he makes for a solid everyday fantasy play right now.
Shelley Duncan - OF, Cleveland Indians (6% owned)
The final weeks of the fantasy season are often about utilizing hot hitters on the free agent wire to boost a couple of categories, and 31 year-old Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan is a prime example of a player who fits that niche. The former Yankee has bounced between the big leagues and the minors since his MLB debut as a 27 year-old back in 2007, but his recent hot streak at the plate has made him a very valuable fantasy commodity. In 40 August games, Duncan logged 47 plate appearances and hit .300, with a home run and four RBI, which was solid but not spectacular. This month, though, Duncan already has five homers and 11 RBI in 49 plate appearances, along with a .289 average. Fantasy owners looking to fill a spot with a home run threat might want to turn to Duncan.
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