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 July 8th, 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!
David Hernandez - RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (34% owned)
Regular readers will recall that we recommended Arizona reliever David Hernandez back in the June 24th Under the Radar - Mixed Leagues article, but now that Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz has gone on the disabled list, Hernandez has gone from setup guy to closer. If he's still out on the waiver wire in your league, immediately add him and enjoy some saves with his solid strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP numbers.
Mike Adams - RP, San Diego Padres (36% owned)
If he were six years younger, Padres reliever Mike Adams would likely be one of the most highly desired closers-in-waiting in all of major league baseball. Instead, the 32 year-old righty (who struggled with a litany of injuries until the age of 29) has established himself as one of the game's elite setup men while working behind former San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman and current stopper Heath Bell. But as the Friars drop further out of playoff contention, there is more and more talk that the club will trade Bell (a free agent at year's end) before the July 31st deadline. With Bell out of town, the closing duties would almost certainly fall to Adams, who has collected a remarkable 1.72 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and a 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate in 209 career innings with the Padres. In 2011, Adams has been among the game's best relievers, compiling a 1.35 ERA and minuscule 0.70 WHIP in 40 frames. Those numbers can help any fantasy team's overall stats, and if Adams spends the second half of the year closing out games, he could become an elite fantasy star.
Aroldis Chapman - RP, Cincinnati Reds (33% owned)
After a highly-hyped and illustrious 15-game debut with the Reds last season, it was somewhat surprising that Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman struggled this year, issuing walks at a frantic pace (20 in 13 innings) before eventually succumbing to injury and landing on the disabled list. His minor league rehab work was equally unimpressive, but since rejoining the Reds two weeks ago, Chapman and his 104 mile-per-hour fastball have overwhelmed opposing hitters. In six innings of work since June 25th, Chapman has allowed one run (on a solo home run to Baltimore's Luke Scott), two hits, and just a single walk while striking out 12 batters. He also recently picked up his first career save, though with the great year that incumbent closer Francisco Cordero is having, it's unlikely that Chapman will see many save opportunities right now. Regardless, as long as he can limit walks, Chapman should be capable of posting huge strikeout numbers and solid rate statistics out of the Reds bullpen, making him a valuable fantasy contributor.
Cory Luebke - SP/RP, San Diego Padres (26% owned)
Lefthander Cory Luebke was proving himself as a valuable part of the San Diego Padres bullpen this season, but a move to the starting rotation has now made him very valuable to fantasy owners as well. Luebke, just 26, had short scoreless outings in his first two starts this year before allowing two runs in six innings Thursday night. His minor league strikeout numbers suggest that he probably won't keep on posting whiffs at his currently high rate of 10.3 K/9, but as he stretches out and makes longer outings, his fantasy value should increase. Naturally, playing half of his games at spacious Petco Park will aid the youngster's development, and post-All Star Game series against the Giants and Marlins should help him become comfortable and continue some success.
Orlando Cabrera - 2B/SS, Cleveland Indians (26% owned)
Indians infielder Orlando Cabrera's poor hitting lost him his job as Cleveland's starting second baseman in early June, and O-Cab was replaced by rookie Cord Phelps from Triple-A Columbus. However, Cabrera has made a case for reclaiming his job since June 14th by hitting .303 with two home runs, a stolen base, 10 runs, and an .852 on-base plus slugging (OPS) average in 66 at-bats. The Indians offense is still finding ways to score runs and, if Cabrera continues getting playing time, the veteran is a worthwhile pick-up for fantasy teams in need of help at the middle infield spots.
Emilio Bonifacio - 3B/SS/OF, Florida Marlins (12% owned)
Many fantasy owners still remember the way Marlins infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio electrified baseball with a torrid first week of play a couple of seasons ago, but the Dominican native has actually carved out a nice fantasy niche throughout his career, and 2011 is developing well for him. His numbers aren't eye-popping, but he's seen fairly regular playing time for Florida while filling in for injured or slumping teammates, the latest one being starting centerfielder Chris Coghlan. Bonifacio has played all over the field this year (excepting first base, catcher, and pitcher) and that versatility has made him a valuable fantasy baseball piece. He doesn't hit home runs and his .277 average and mediocre on-base numbers aren't all that impressive, but Bonifacio is currently Florida's leadoff hitter and already has four stolen bases in July after swiping six last month, so fantasy rosters in need of a versatile speed threat should consider adding him.
Barry Zito - SP, San Francisco Giants (10% owned)
Since his return from the first disabled list stint of his career, Giants pitcher and stuffed animal collector Barry Zito has won all three of his starts and been nothing short of spectacular. In 21 innings of work, Zito has allowed just three runs, 13 hits, and four walks against 11 strikeouts, good for a 1.29 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. His latest outing was an eight-inning gem against the Padres on Thursday night in which he allowed just one run, four hits, and zero walks while striking out a season-high seven batters and lowering his season ERA to 3.18. Because of the emergence of starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, it was originally thought that Zito could be relegated to bullpen duty upon his return, but an injury to starter Jonathan Sanchez freed up a rotation spot and the veteran lefty is making every effort to keep it. Zito had stretches of excellence last season and can be dominant when locating his coveted curveball, but he can also sometimes settle into mediocrity. This inconsistency and his lack of big strikeout numbers often leave him on fantasy baseball's fringe, but as long as he is dealing like he is now, he is worth a roster spot.
Brian Duensing - SP/RP, Minnesota Twins (8% owned)
Minnesota pitcher Brian Duensing wasn't likely to repeat the 2.62 ERA mark he posted in 130 2/3 innings for the Twins last season, but the lefty has still shown signs of excellence this season. That excellence culminated with his most recent start on July 4th, when Duensing pitched a complete game shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays. The 28 year-old's K/9 rate has actually increased from his 2010 mark, and since the end of a rough month of May when he tallied an 8.76 ERA, Duensing has won four of his six starts and posted a 2.45 mark, lowering his season ERA to 4.25. He's not always as dominant as he was on Independence Day, but Duensing could be a solid fantasy starter in the second half.
Nate Schierholtz - OF, San Francisco Giants (2% owned)
Nate Schierholtz has been the Giants' fourth outfielder and a part-time starter since 2009, but a string of multi-hit games and flashes of home run power have locked him in, at least temporarily, as the team's everyday rightfielder. Since June 25th, he's gone 18 of 47 (a .383 average) with 4 doubles, 7 RBI, and a pair of home runs, both of which came in a July 6th contest against the Padres. According to data from Fangraphs, his 2011 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and line drive rate (LD%) are in line with his career marks, and his career minor league numbers suggest he's capable of maintaining a solid batting average. On the other hand, he isn't much more than a double-digit home run threat, and his hitting success has always come in a gap-to-gap sort of way. Fantasy owners in need of a batting average boost may want to add him while he's hitting well and playing regularly, as it wouldn't be too surprising if he maintains a batting average around .280 for the remainder of the season.
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