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 June 3rd, 2011
With all of the unpredictable injuries, slumps, and job changes, many fantasy owners are already looking to the waiver wire for help in keeping their early 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!
Eric Young Jr. - 2B/OF, Colorado Rockies (6% owned)
Speedy Colorado Rockies prospect Eric Young Jr. was recently recalled to the major leagues and is already displaying the sharp contact and speed skills that make him so exciting to watch. EY Jr. has suffered through some injuries in his professional baseball career, but he was off to a healthy and red-hot start for triple-A Colorado Springs in 2011 and has continued that success by beginning his 2011 big league season with a five-game hitting streak and three stolen bases. He was batting .363 with a .462 on-base percentage and 17 steals (1 caught) at the time of his call-up, and it appears that he will continue swiping bases at will as long as he is in the lineup. Young primarily plays second base but gets occasional starts in the outfield, so he further boosts his fantasy value with dual position eligibility. As long as he's getting on base, he'll bat atop the Rockies batting order and could be an excellent pickup for a team in need of runs and stolen bases.
Aaron Crow - RP, Kansas City Royals (46% owned)
Aaron Crow is probably already on a roster in your fantasy league, but on the off chance that your fellow owners haven't kept up on fantasy news, Crow should be picked up immediately. Royals closer Joakim Soria has, at least for now, been removed from his ninth inning role. Soria has struggled greatly and Crow, a rookie and former first-round pick, has been excellent out of the bullpen. It seems likely that Soria will return to the closer spot when he regains his elite effectiveness, but until that happens Crow will be snagging saves in Kansas City.
Chris Iannetta - C, Colorado Rockies (27% owned)
Another Rockies hitter worth fantasy consideration is catcher Chris Iannetta, who is on pace for a career-high home run total and is a week removed from his best game of the season. On May 28th, Iannetta cracked two homers and notched 6 RBI against the St. Louis Cardinals. Iannetta is hitting just .235 this season, but he followed up his .182 April batting average by hitting .272 in May. He also has 30 walks this season, boosting his 2011 on-base percentage to .379. That number is slightly inflated by his usual eighth position (in front of the pitcher) in the Colorado batting order. Iannetta is available in many leagues and could be a nice source of power for teams in need of offense out of the catcher spot.
Jason Bourgeois - OF/2B, Houston Astros (11% owned)
Houston outfielder Jason Bourgeois was batting .407 with 12 stolen bases in 54 at-bats this season before a strained left oblique sidelined him on May 7th. He was featured in our AL/NL Under the Radar about a month ago and was injured shortly thereafter. Bourgeois is 29 and has played most of his career in the minor leagues, but he's proven himself there as an excellent contact hitter and speedster, as evidenced by his .283 career minor league average. Along with playing the outfield, Bourgeois makes occasional appearances at second base and could earn additional eligibility there. If he can slap hits with the same frequency as he did before his injury, Bourgeois could be useful fantasy player for teams in need of steals.
Matt Harrison - SP, Texas Rangers (34% owned)
After working mostly out of the Rangers bullpen in 2010, 25 year-old lefthander Matt Harrison cracked the Texas rotation in 2011 and got off to a fast start by posting quality starts in his first four games. In that span, Harrison was 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA, including dominant wins over the Yankees and Red Sox. Then, however, Harrison unraveled in a 3 inning, 7 run outing against Toronto on April 26th and a 1 2/3 inning, 4 run start against Oakland on May 1st. But in 3 starts since those two disastrous outings, Harrison has been excellent. He was scratched from his latest start on July 2nd due to a blister on his throwing hand, but once he returns to the mound he is worthy of fantasy consideration. He doesn't post big strikeout numbers, but is capable of shutting down tough offenses and, with the Rangers offense behind him, could post a big win total this season.
Philip Humber - SP, Chicago White Sox (26% owned)
Many around the baseball world are waiting for Chicago White Sox starter Phil Humber's 2011 success to run out, but the 28 year-old journeyman righthander just continues to put up good numbers. Humber has played with the Mets, Twins, and Royals organizations since being drafted 3rd overall in the 2004 amateur draft, and his 4.48 ERA in 664 1/3 minor league innings certainly didn't suggest that he would be sitting on a 3.06 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP through two months of work this year, but Humber has exceeded expectations and forced White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to keep him in the rotation. The reason for Humber's late-blooming success could be linked to his current pattern of pitching to contact, as he's struck out just 38 batters in 67 2/3 innings this year, good for just 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). The Texas native is worth a look this coming week, as the White Sox have light-hitting Seattle and Oakland teams coming to town.
Nyjer Morgan - OF, Milwaukee Brewers (10% owned)
At 30 years old, outfielder Nyjer Morgan may finally have found a permanent home with the Milwaukee Brewers, as his tough play and hitting ability have endeared him to Brew City fans. Morgan has missed a lot of time due to injuries in 2011, but when healthy he has proven himself as a significantly better offensive player than centerfielder Carlos Gomez . Morgan is hitting .383 in just 47 at-bats with Milwaukee this year and was featured in an earlier AL/NL Under the Radar piece. If he can avoid the injury bug for the duration of the season, he could be an asset to fantasy owners. Morgan had 34 stolen bases in 2010 and is capable of posting big stolen base and runs scored numbers this year, particularly if the Brewers continue to bat him second in the lineup ahead of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder .
Brett Lawrie - 2B/3B, Toronto Blue Jays (14% owned)
Toronto prospect Brett Lawrie has been the subject of a great deal of speculation this week, especially after Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos stated that a call-up to the big club was close. Lawrie is day-to-day at AAA Las Vegas after being struck by a pitch on Tuesday, but his .354 average, 15 home runs, 49 RBI, 19 doubles, and 11 stolen bases (1 caught) in just 52 minor league games certainly warrant a promotion as soon as possible. In the off-season, the 21 year-old was dealt from Milwaukee to Toronto for pitcher Shaun Marcum , and the only question that remains is where he will play defensively. Lawrie was drafted as a catcher in 2008 but converted to second base before seeing any time behind the plate, but Toronto moved him to third base in 2011. He has struggled with his fielding all season and many feel his big league future will be as a corner outfielder, but his bat will get him into any starting lineup. His promotion to Toronto is imminent, and savvy fantasy owners with bench space could get the jump on their competition by scooping him up now. He'll likely play the hot corner for the Jays and could have eligibility at both second and third base, depending on the specific rules of one's fantasy league.
Josh Willingham - OF, Oakland Athletics (25% owned)
Though he posted a home run total of 24 just a couple of seasons ago, Josh Willingham's power-hitting ability has been largely ignored by fantasy owners in 2011. As part of a mostly light-hitting Oakland offense, Willingham has stood out and, with 10 home runs through two months of play, is on pace for a career-high in that department. The knock on Willingham has always been his inability to consistently hit for a high average, and his .240 batting mark in 2011 has only reinforced that perception. Homer-hungry fantasy owners who are willing to absorb a low batting average should consider adding Willingham, as he is one of the primary RBI men and the cleanup hitter for the Athletics and his .268 career batting mark suggests he may improve from this point forward.
Jon Jay - OF, St. Louis Cardinals (13% owned)
It didn't appear that Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay would be seeing much everyday playing time once his teammate Matt Holliday returned from the disabled list this week, but Holliday aggravated his strained oblique and went back on the DL, so it appears that Jay will once again be a regular part of the St. Louis lineup. Jay will likely hit second and have plenty of chances to score runs ahead of sluggers Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman . Like last year, Jay has hit for a very high average in the first couple of months of the season, and he enters play on Friday with a .336 batting average. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this season is nearly .400, so that average will likely level off, but as long as he is hitting well and in manager Tony La Russa's batting order, Jay is worthy of a fantasy roster spot in some mixed leagues.
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