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 5th, 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!
Brett Lawrie - 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (16% owned)
Toronto infielder prospect Brett Lawrie was featured in an Under the Radar piece earlier in the season, but his impending call-up was derailed by injury. Now, though, he has been recalled by the Jays and will be playing third base for the club. Lawrie will soon have dual positional eligibility and is worth adding in just about every fantasy league. He was just the subject of a Prospect Press article, which gives far more insight into how he profiles as a hitter and what he'll be able to contribute to your fantasy roster.
Jesus Guzman - 1B, San Diego Padres (10% owned)
There haven't been a lot of success stories for the San Diego Padres this year, as the club who nearly cracked the playoffs last season has really struggled in 2011, but one of the big bright spots has been first baseman Jesus Guzman. After prospect Anthony Rizzo failed to seize the first baseman job vacated by the departure of star hitter Adrian Gonzalez, Guzman stepped in and has done nothing but hit consistently well. Entering play on Friday, Guzman is hitting .337 with four home runs and 23 RBI in just 102 plate appearances, and he has multiple hits in five of his last eight starts. After several solid minor league seasons in the Mariners, Athletics, and Giants systems, the 27 year-old Guzman is finally getting a legitimate major league shot and is taking full advantage. Fantasy owners should take advantage too, at least as long as he's hitting well.
Denard Span - OF, Minnesota Twins (34% owned)
Twins outfielder Denard Span, who had been on the disabled list since early June, recently returned to action for Minnesota and is looking to assert himself once again as one of the game's more consistent centerfielders. Span had a bit of a down season in 2010, hitting only .264 after marks of .294 in 2008 and .311 in 2009. However, he swiped a career-high 26 bases last year and was hitting .294 this year before he suffered a concussion and was forced out of action. Fantasy owners in need of a speedster with good on-base skills and run-scoring ability would be wise to scoop up Span before other owners notice he's back in the lineup.
Mark Buehrle - SP, Chicago White Sox (30% owned)
Chicago lefthander Mark Buehrle is far from flashy, but the 32 year-old has been a very consistent hurler throughout his career and a valuable piece for several good White Sox clubs. Buehrle's career mark of 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) is quite low for a pitcher as successful as he is, and his 4.8 K/9 rate this year is certainly in line with that, but a recent string of very good starts makes Buehrle worth some serious fantasy consideration. In his last eight starts, he has posted a 2.03 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, though he's recorded just a 2-1 win-loss record in that span. Many of those opponents have been fairly weak, but the veteran is fresh off of a six-inning, five hit, two run no decision against the potent Red Sox lineup, and his 2011 ERA is down to 3.21. If that ERA number were to hold, it would be Buehrle's lowest season mark since the 3.12 line he had for the World Series champion club in 2005 (he finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting that year). He'll take the mound Friday against the Minnesota Twins and, with the Orioles and Royals scheduled through August 14th, it's not a bad time for fantasy owners in need of some solid pitching to add him.
Rick Porcello - SP, Detroit Tigers (22% owned)
There are few pitchers going better than Tigers hurler Rick Porcello is right now. The 22 year-old righthander has won his last five starts and has a 3.06 ERA in that span. As a result, Porcello had a perfect month of July and lowered his ERA from 5.06 to 4.50. After a stellar debut season in 2009, the youngster has experienced his share of growing pains, but fantasy owners are often forced to ride the hot hand and almost no one is hotter than Porcello. He'll face the Royals Friday and his club has a pretty soft August schedule, so the New Jersey native could be a sneaky-good pickup for the end of a fantasy rotation.
Javier Vazquez - SP, Florida Marlins (34% owned)
Since a fourth place finish in the NL Cy Young vote and a 15-win, 238 strikeout, 2.87 ERA season for the Braves in 2009, righthanded pitcher Javier Vazquez has been a statistical disaster. After posting a 5.32 ERA in 157 1/3 innings for the Yankees last season, Vazquez returned to the National League. Many analysts figured a jump back to the senior circuit would help him, but a dreadful 7.09 ERA in his first 13 starts this year indicated otherwise. However, Javy may still have some outs left in his arm, and in his last nine outings he's posted a 2.26 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings. He's not the dominant strikeout hurler he was for Atlanta back in 2009, but he might be worth some fantasy consideration for the remainder of the year, depending on matchups. After series against the Cardinals and Braves, the Marlins will have ten games against opponents from the NL West, so it could be a very good couple of weeks for Vazquez and the rest of the Florida pitching staff.
Casey Kotchman - 1B, Tampa Bay Rays (9% owned)
First baseman Casey Kotchman basically fizzled as an Angels prospect, but the 28 year-old lefthanded hitter has turned some heads with the Rays and, with just a couple of months left in the 2011 MLB season, his impressive batting average can no longer be written off as pure fluke. Entering play on Friday, Kotchman is hitting .331 in 326 at-bats this season, with 5 home runs and a .394 on-base percentage. He doesn't possess the expected first baseman home run power and he plays no other positions, but for a fantasy club with a corner infield spot and a need for an improvement in the batting average category, Kotchman could be a very useful pickup.
Yuniesky Betancourt - SS, Milwaukee Brewers (9% owned)
For a large part of this season, there has been a lot of buzz about the Milwaukee Brewers replacing shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt with a more capable hitter. However, in the past month-and-a-half or so, Betancourt has probably saved his job by getting things done at the plate. In 38 games since June 20th, Betancourt is hitting .316 with 5 homers and 21 RBI. He's drawn just 4 walks in that time, but he has lifted his season batting average from .224 to .257 and is once again earning the respect of his team. He is far from a fantasy dynamo, but for owners in need of a momentary boost at a weak offensive position, Yuni could be quite helpful.
Gerardo Parra - OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (2% owned)
Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra has very quietly pieced together a nice 2011 season and, as a result, is seeing more playing time for the playoff contenders. Parra has just 287 at-bats this year, but his .289 batting average, seven home runs, and seven stolen bases could be very complimentary for fantasy clubs, particularly ones looking to fill gaps due to injury. Most impressive, though, is his .355 on-base average, which has come as a result of his 29 walks, already a career high. At just 24 years old, Parra could be on his way to locking down a bigger role for his club, and if he continues to mature and contribute he might see a lot more playing time down the stretch. He's hitting .379 since July 21st and has hits in seven of his last eight starts, so now is a good time to enlist his services.
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