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 2012.
Under the Radar - Mixed Leagues
Friday April 20th, 2012
With all of the unpredictable injuries and job changes, many fantasy owners are looking to the waiver wire for help in getting their season started off right. Whether you need saves, strikeouts, or even if you're chasing wins, this set of players has you covered.
*Owned percentages via Yahoo!
Nolan Reimold - OF, Baltimore Orioles (54% owned)
Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold has sputtered at times since his major league debut season back in 2009, but the 28 year-old slugger has impressed fantasy owners thus far in 2012. Reimold smacked 15 home runs and posted a .279/.365/.466 triple-slash (average/on-base/slugging) line in 411 plate appearances back in 2009, but managed just 16 homers and a .235 average in 436 plate appearances in parts of the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. This year, Reimold has hit safely in his last 9 games and homered in four straight from April 13th to 17th, making good on his potential and the club's faith in making him the starting leftfielder. He'll surely level off, but Nolan has shown power at all professional levels and could be capable of posting twenty home runs this season, even if his final average is sitting closer to .260 by the end of the year.
Chase Headley - 3B, San Diego Padres (53% owned)
Like Reimold, Padres third baseman Chase Headley is a promising prospect who has not yet made good on all of his potential but is also enjoying a very strong early season in 2012. Headley rocketed through the Padres system and looked to be an excellent contact hitter with 20-plus home run potential a few years ago, but hit just .263 with a total of 23 home runs in a pair of full seasons as an outfielder and third baseman for San Diego in 2009 and 2010, and he managed just 4 homers with a .283 mark last season. Somewhat surprisingly, he has stolen 40 bases in that time, but his fantasy value was still fairly limited. In 2012, however, he has already matched the 4 home run total he posted in 439 plate appearances last year and has shown improved plate discipline, leading some to think that the 27 year-old has turned a corner in his development. Fantasy owners should be somewhat skeptical, but the potential for a breakout year is still present and, for teams in need of help at the third base or corner spots, Headley could be an excellent pickup in the early going.
Kyle Drabek - SP, Toronto Blue Jays (30% owned)
Former first-round draft pick Kyle Drabek has been surrounded by high expectations since being included as the key piece in the Roy Halladay trade in December of 2009, but until this year the 24 year-old righthander has done little to assert himself as a big league hurler. Drabek posted a 5.83 ERA in 95 2/3 big league innings in 2010 and 2011 (17 starts, 21 appearances) and struggled badly by tallying a 7.44 ERA in 15 minor league starts last year. However, this season Drabek has come through on his massive potential and is among one of the more surprising and impressive pitchers of the young season. He enters his April 20th start with 10 strikeouts and just 2 earned runs allowed in 12 2/3 innings of work. He's far from a completely polished hurler, but for fantasy clubs looking for some early season rotation help from a player with big-time upside, Drabek could be a very smart pickup.
Jake Arrieta - SP, Baltimore Orioles (21% owned)
Orioles righthander Jake Arrieta might be lesser known among a crop of young Baltimore hurlers that includes teammates Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter, but he's been far more effective than his teammates this season. The 26 year-old Texas native has 16 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings this year and, while not flashy or dominant, his 2.66 ERA and 0.89 WHIP hint at some serious fantasy potential. While he probably won't rack up huge numbers and wins may be hard to come by until the Orioles prove to be contenders in the AL West, Arrieta is a useful streaming option and could be a low-risk, high-value option for owners in deeper leagues. Jake's minor league numbers show inning-eater potential and he averaged just under a strikeout per inning on the farm, so don't be too surprised if he ends the year with 170-plus strikeouts and steady across-the-board stats.
Jon Jay - OF, St. Louis Cardinals (25% owned)
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay is a .300 career hitter but garners few accolades in the fantasy world. This season, Jay has been a key contributor for the Albert Pujols-less Cardinals and has posted a .349 average with a pair of homers and steals- very helpful fantasy numbers. He hits near the bottom of the St. Louis batting order, which limits his overall runs and RBI numbers but, with a string of outfield injuries rocking the fantasy world, Jay's contributions could be valuable to any roster. A high batting average is more-or-less a given, but Jay also provides a little home run power, though he has only 16 longs balls in just under 900 career plate appearances. He's not an ideal fantasy option, but an owner could do far worse for a fill-in or part-time outfielder.
Santiago Casilla - RP, San Francisco Giants (45% owned)
Sergio Romo - RP, San Francisco Giants (39% owned)
Just after last week's Under the Radar posted, it was announced that Giants closer Brian Wilson would be undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the remainder of the 2012 MLB season. This news had an expected effect on the fantasy baseball world, and owners scrambled to pick up San Francisco's other late-inning relievers as replacements for Wilson. As they did during Wilson's injuries last season, the Giants will employ something of a committee in the ninth inning, but righthanders Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo are expected to get most of the save opportunities (though lefties Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt will probably have their own chances, depending on matchups). Both Casilla and Romo had excellent 2011 seasons (with 1.74 and 1.50 ERA marks, respectively) so either could seize the role, depending on their 2012 performances. At this point, Casilla has an edge simply because he was the primary fill-in last year and has already received and converted a save opportunity, but both hurlers have fantasy value moving forward.
Henry Rodriguez - RP, Washington Nationals (42% owned)
With incumbent closer Drew Storen on the disabled list, 2012 end-game duties for the Nationals appeared to fall mainly to former ninth inning man Brad Lidge, but young fireballer Henry Rodriguez appears to be overtaking the veteran for that role early on this season. The 25 year-old Rodriguez has used his dominating 96 to 100 mile-per-hour heater to blow away hitters in his big league career, but like many young power pitchers he has had control and command problems. Though walks and wildness may still be an issue for him, his overpowering stuff has played well this year and he has already notched three saves and nine strikeouts in just 6 1/3 innings of work. Lidge will always have him beat on experience and Storen's return may not be too far off, but for now Rodriguez is a must-own for fantasy owners in search of saves and strikeouts.
Bryan Shaw - RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (12% owned)
Diamondbacks pitcher Bryan Shaw may not seem like an obvious choice for a mixed fantasy league pickup, but his early season work has proven him to be a valuable commodity. While J.J. Putz is still fully entrenched as Arizona's closer, Shaw has tallied a pair of early-season saves and seems to be getting a good share of late-inning action for the club. With Putz's extensive injury history, Shaw could be in line for several more save opportunities before the year ends, particularly since it appears that he may have passed veteran David Hernandez as the team's top setup arm. The 24 year-old has thrived since his move to full-time bullpen work last season and has a pair of saves and 8 strikeouts in seven innings this year. It is too early to tell, but the Diamondbacks could be grooming Shaw to be a future closer and a key part of their young up-and-coming club. Savvy fantasy owners with roster space shouldn't wait too long to pick up this talented reliever.
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