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 who might help you boost your fantasy team in 2012.
Under the Radar - Mixed Leagues
Friday May 11th, 2012
With all of the unpredictable injuries and job changes of the baseball season, many fantasy owners are looking to the waiver wire for help. Regardless of where help is needed, this edition of UTR can provide you with some players who are still available in most mixed leagues.
*Owned percentages via Yahoo!
Kyle Seager - 3B/SS, Seattle Mariners (40% owned)
Mariners infielder Kyle Seager has been very impressive since his mention in our AL/NL Under the Radar back on April 12th, and he's now earning attention in many mixed leagues. His eligibility at both third base and shortstop add to his roto value, plus he has also played a few games at second base this year and could have eligibility there too, depending on your fantasy league format. Prior to Friday, Seager has hit .298 with 4 home runs, 10 doubles, 3 stolen bases, and 20 RBI, primarily as Seattle's number five hitter. The 24 year-old was a .328 career hitter in 269 minor league games and was known mainly as a doubles machine; he ripped 33 two-baggers in just 90 minor league games in 2011 and already has 10 in 28 major league games this year. It's unclear whether Seager's doubles power will eventually lead to bigger home run numbers, but 15 to 20 long balls annually is a possibility and, along with the ability to play multiple positions and hit for a high average, he should be able to help out any fantasy roster this season.
Robert Andino - 2B/3B/SS, Baltimore Orioles (32% owned)
Like Seager, the ability to play multiple positions adds fantasy value to Orioles infielder Robert Andino, who could provide plenty of help in 2012. Though he often hits at the bottom of the Baltimore order, Andino has hit just under .300 to start off 2012 and can be very useful as a fill-in at three infield spots. He is capable of over 20 steals per season but hasn't run much so far this year, though his 13 stolen bases in 2011 hint at that possibility. The 28 year-old Florida native has some power but, despite 3 long balls so far in 2012, he would be fortunate to reach double digits in home runs by season's end. Overall, though, Andino has excellent fantasy value as a middle infielder or bench player for most fantasy squads.
Josh Reddick - OF, Oakland Athletics (28% owned)
There weren't a lot of high expectations for Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick this season after he came over from the Red Sox as part of the Andrew Bailey deal in December, but so far he has been very impressive and even earned a spot in last week's AL/NL Under the Radar article. The 25 year-old Reddick enters play on Friday with a .264 average, 6 home runs, and 3 stolen bases in 121 at-bats for the A's and is flashing some of the talent that made him one of Boston's better prospects back in 2010. Furthermore, Oakland has Reddick hitting mostly near the middle of the batting order lately, which should boost his RBI chances. He may play for a fairly weak offensive club but it's not inconceivable that Reddick could have a very serviceable fantasy campaign for the Athletics this season, possibly in a simlar way to what Josh Willingham did last year (but with fewer homers). Reddick could help a fantasy team by finishing with around 20 home runs by October.
Chris Johnson - 3B, Houston Astros (27% owned)
Serious injuries to MLB third basemen like Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, and Kevin Youkilis this year have left many fantasy owners scrambling for capable replacements, and one lesser-known but valuable third-sacker in mixed leagues could be Houston infielder Chris Johnson. Johnson's hot start has already earned him some recognition in our April 18th AL/NL Under the Radar article and, with continued hitting and four May home runs already, he's now worth a pickup in most mixed leagues. Johnson is probably best known as a strong contact hitter with gap power but little skill for drawing walks, but his recent home run binge gives hope that he may become a 20 home run threat. A .290 average with 15-plus home runs is possible this year and, if he can keep piling up hits, he could move to the top half of the Astros order and get more RBI opportunities. This would make Chris well worth a roster spot in all but the shallowest of mixed leagues.
James McDonald - SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (17% owned)
After going to Pittsburgh from the Dodgers via trade in July of 2010 and a positive performance for the Pirates last season, righthander James McDonald is finally showing some of the ace potential he displayed as a minor league prospect. McDonald has a 2.70 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and 31 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings this year, but has been even more dominant in his last three outings. In those games versus the Rockies, Braves, and Reds, McDonald has tossed 21 innings and struck out 25 batters while allowing just 14 hits, 7 walks, and 5 runs. If he can keep those strikeout numbers up, he could go from the fantasy fringe to a mid-tier (or better) fantasy starting pitcher, even if he doesn't get many wins with the Pirates. If he can post another good outing in his May 11th start against the Astros he will be getting a lot more attention in fantasy circles, so savvy owners should act early and pick him up now.
Addison Reed - RP, Chicago White Sox (27% owned)
The White Sox closer carousel continues to spin in Chicago, and the latest reliever locking down saves is 23 year-old righthander Addison Reed. Incumbent closer Hector Santiago's recent struggles prompted a change and reports indicated that lefthander Chris Sale, who successfully converted to starter and posted solid numbers to start 2012, would take the job. However, elbow soreness has halted Sale's move to closer and, essentially by default, the job has fallen to Reed. Reed has been excellent this season and has already locked down a pair of saves to go with his 14 strikeouts and just 8 baserunners allowed in 10 innings of work. Reed entered 2012 as the club's top prospect due to his mid-90's fastball and dynamic low-80's slider, though the team certainly didn't want to thrust him into a high-pressure role too quickly. However, Reed looks like he's the clear choice to be Chicago's future closer and, if he can thrive in his new spot, he could be one of MLB's better young relievers by the end of the season. His excellent minor league totals hint at excellent strikeout numbers and a low ERA, along with the saves that come to any big league closer.
Rafael Dolis - RP, Chicago Cubs (32% owned)
James Russell - RP, Chicago Cubs (6% owned)
Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol has always toed the line between dominant closer and late-inning liability, due mostly to his tendency to lose all sense of the strike zone and walk strings of hitters. In the past, his ability to strike out hitters and work out of jams allowed him to remain a ninth inning stopper, but in 2012 it has finally caught up to him. After several rough outings to start the season, Marmol has now walked 15 hitters in just 10 2/3 innings of work and, as a result, was recently removed from his closer role. The end-game duties will now fall to righthander Rafael Dolis and lefthander James Russell who will, depending on matchups, finish games for a while. Dolis is a 24 year-old Dominican native who made a successful transition from starter to reliever in the minors last season and worked as a closer for Double-A Tennessee. In the past, he has touched 100 miles per hour with his fastball but works mostly in the mid to high-90s now with a focus on command and pounding the bottom of the strike zone. As a result, Dolis doesn't strike out a lot of hitters, but he does get a lot of ground ball outs. James Russell, the 26 year-old son of former all-star pitcher Jeff Russell, is in his third season as a lefty out of the Cubs bullpen. His career ERA is 4.12 and he has been very serviceable, but he is not typically dominant and allows too many hits (143 in 129 MLB innings) and home runs to be an everyday stopper. Neither Dolis nor Russell are ideal replacements at closer but for now they'll see duty there, with Dolis likely getting most of the opportunities. Veteran Kerry Wood may also be in the mix, if necessary.
Steve Cishek - RP, Miami Marlins (38% owned)
Edward Mujica - RP, Miami Marlins (10% owned)
In one of the more unexpected turns this season, Miami closer Heath Bell, who signed a three-year $27 million contract in the off-season, has struggled horribly through the first six weeks of the 2012 season and has been removed from his closer role. Bell has been one of the league's more dependable stoppers since 2009 but, with 4 blown saves, 16 hits, and 13 runs allowed (11 earned) in just 9 2/3 innings of work, he's been horribly ineffective this year. Until he regains his past performance, Bell will be replaced by fellow Marlins righthanders Steve Cishek and Edward Mujica. Cishek is a 25 year-old former fifth-round draft choice who has worked as a reliever for his entire professional career and been largely successful in that role. He posted a 2.63 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings and three saves for the Marlins last year and, at this point, seems like an ideal choice for a fill-in closer. Mujica, a 28 year-old former Indians and Padres hurler, has a 4.06 ERA in 323 2/3 major league innings and, while not as young or dominant as Cishek, has already tallied a pair of saves since Bell's collapse (Cishek has none). Again, Bell will eventually regain this role, but for now the ninth inning will be handled by a combination of Cishek and Mujica so fantasy owners in need of saves should act accordingly.
Andrew Cashner - RP, San Diego Padres (14% owned)
Dale Thayer - RP, San Diego Padres (13% owned)
Heath Bell's former team the San Diego Padres has been dealing with a closer situation of its own, though this one was caused by injury. Regular closer Huston Street, who averaged 25 saves per year for the Athletics and Rockies from 2005 to 2011, suffered a strained lat muscle last weekend and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Street was off to a great start in 2012 with 4 saves, 13 strikeouts, and just one run and three hits allowed in 9 2/3 innings, but he isn't expected to return for several weeks. Instead, the Padres will turn to righthanders Andrew Cashner and Dale Thayer. Cashner is a fireballing former Cubs prospect who has been somewhat erratic as a big leaguer but has great potential and a fastball that sits in the high-90's and can touch 100 miles per hour. Thayer, on the other hand, is a journeyman reliever who had a few major league stints with the Rays and Mets but has almost exclusively been a high-level minor league closer since his first pro season back in 2003. The 31 year-old was an amateur free agent for the Padres back then and spent four years with the organization before departing, then returned again this year. Thayer has racked up 173 minor league saves with a 2.45 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, and 562 strikeouts in 576 2/3 minor league innings (all in relief), so he's no stranger to end-game duties. Cashner has the pedigree and Thayer has the experience, so it's likely they'll end up splitting ninth inning duties (and saves) until Street's return.
Casey Janssen - RP, Toronto Blue Jays (20% owned)
A trip to the disabled list for Toronto's regular closer Sergio Santos got veteran reliever Francisco Cordero a mention as a fill-in for the April 27th edition of Mixed League Under the Radar, but since that time Cordero has largely failed as a stopper and recently lost the ninth inning job to righthander Casey Janssen. Janssen, a 30 year-old who was a fourth-round pick by the Jays back in 2004, had nine career big league saves prior to this season but has worked mainly as a reliever and setup man. He has some experience in high-leverage situations, but his closing experience is quite limited. Casey succeeds mostly due to a cut fastball that sits in the high-80's or low 90's, and he usually posts good but not great overall numbers. While he isn't a dominant late-game hurler, Janssen is a capable closing option who should provide just under a strikeout per inning for fantasy owners in need of saves.
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