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 June 22nd, 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!
Zack Cozart - SS, Cincinnati Reds (30% owned)
After a career-best start at Triple-A and an impressive but injury-shortened big league stint for the Reds last season, shortstop Zack Cozart entered 2012 as one of the Reds' top prospects and a favorite to win the starting shortstop job out of spring training. His 2011 injury required Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm so his recovery time was fairy short, but the effects of the procedure may have lingered and caused his slow start this year. Cozart was hitting just .230 with 3 home runs on May 19th, but since then he has posted a .304 average with 8 doubles and 4 home runs, raising his season mark to .262 and taking his 2012 home run total to 7. He's been even better in June, with 9 multi-hit games in 16 contests. Cozart is steady in several statistical categories and has even shown stolen base potential in the minors, but from a fantasy standpoint he isn't a huge contributor in any one tenet. However, shortstop and middle infield are difficult fantasy positions to find roto help in, which makes the 26 year-old Cozart a solid pickup in most formats. He has limited plate discipline and won't light up too many box scores, but he could top 15 home runs and be a reliable multi-category fantasy player for the rest of the year, and possibly beyond.
Brandon Moss - 1B/OF, Oakland Athletics (25% owned)
Fantasy baseball is full of surprises every year, and currently one of the most surprising players is Oakland outfielder and first baseman Brandon Moss. Moss is a 28 year-old former Red Sox prospect who never really put it together for Boston and spent time with the Pirates and Phillies before catching on with Oakland's Triple-A affiliate in 2012. During his time in the low minors, Moss was a very notable run producer and hit for extremely high averages, but as his home run power blossomed his contact numbers dissipated and he lost most of his prospect luster. He spent 2009 as a reserve outfielder for Pittsburgh but saw just 22 big league games in 2010 and 2011. This year, he cracked 15 homers in just 51 games and hit .286 with a .371 on-base mark for Triple-A Sacramento, which prompted a call-up from the A's. He's improved on that torrid power binge in Oakland and enters play on Friday with 7 home runs in just 14 games played. He's hitting a respectable .283 and, while it's impossible for any player to keep up a home run pace like his, fantasy baseball is often about riding short-term production and Moss's hot streak and power potential make him worth a roster spot in nearly any league right now.
Coco Crisp - OF, Oakland Athletics (28% owned)
Veteran outfielder Coco Crisp sprinted from the fantasy fringe into legitimacy last year when he tied for the American League lead with 49 stolen bases. Though he hit just .264, many fantasy owners took a late-round gamble on him for 2012, though it certainly didn't work out in their favor. Crisp spent a large part of May on the disabled list and as of June 6th was hitting an awful .158 with a .213 on-base percentage and just 6 runs scored, though he was a perfect 7 for 7 on stolen bases. Since then, Crisp has fared much better and in 13 games he has gone 15 for 45 with 5 runs scored and 6 steals (1 caught). While it's pretty likely that the 32 year-old's best hitting days are behind him, fantasy owners in need of a hot contact hitter and a boost in their stolen base numbers should definitely consider utilizing Crisp's skills. He may not be a long-term solution and he certainly won't provide the same sort of help that better-hitting speedsters will, but if he can come close to matching last year's output for the rest of the 2012 campaign, he should have a place as a fifth outfielder or fantasy reserve.
Anthony Rizzo - 1B, Chicago Cubs (13% owned)
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has done a surprising amount of moving around for such a promising young prospect, and it appears that an upcoming move from the minors to the big leagues is next. Rizzo started his career as a sixth round pick by the Boston Red Sox and was a key part of the deal that sent slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in December of 2010. Then in January of 2012, he was again shipped to a new team, this time as part of the multi-player deal that sent pitcher Andrew Cashner to the Padres. The 22 year-old Florida native has serious home run power and the potential to hit for a high batting average, but he floundered badly in 49 games for the Padres last season and hit just .141 with a single homer before being demoted. Rizzo responded by hitting .331 with 34 doubles, 26 home runs, and 101 RBI in 93 games with the Padres Triple-A affiliate in Tucson and reaffirmed his prospect status. This year, Rizzo has been even better for Triple-A Iowa and with a .356 average and 23 home runs in just 65 games so far, and his promotion to the Cubs is imminent. Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair is already seeing more time in the outfield in preparation for a permanent move there upon Rizzo's arrival, and fantasy owners are also starting to snatch up the young lefthanded hitter. If a roster spot is available, it's smart to make a preemptive pickup on Rizzo and, hopefully, reap the benefits of his power numbers soon.
Garrett Richards - SP, Los Angeles Angels (13% owned)
Angels righthander Garrett Richards earned a spot in our AL/NL Only Under the Radar piece just last week while filling in for ace Jered Weaver and was most likely set to return to the minor leagues upon Weaver's return, but his strong big league performances and an injury to starting pitcher Jerome Williams means that he will be hanging around for quite a bit longer. Richards entered 2012 as the Angels' third best prospect (according to Baseball America) and showed some potential in 7 games with the club last season, but the 24 year-old wasn't expected to make much of an impact with the club this year. He's surprised by allowing just 2 earned runs and tallying 17 strikeouts in his three starts (20 innings) this month, including eight shutout innings against the Diamondbacks in his last game on June 17th. Richards has a nice array of pitches and can toss his fastball in the mid to high 90's, so his success could be much more than just a youngster on a fluky run right now. He should get at least three more turns in the Angels rotation and is certainly worth a pickup for his next scheduled outing on June 24th against the sputtering Dodgers offense.
Alex Cobb - SP, Tampa Bay Rays (6% owned)
Young starting pitching seems to be the ongoing theme of the Tampa Bay Rays in the last few seasons, and righthander Alex Cobb looks like yet another player primed for success with the club. Cobb has started six games for the Rays this year and dropped three straight losses after a fairly good pair of wins in early May, but his last outing against the Marlins really turned some heads and he allowed just 2 hits and a walk over seven shutout innings and struck out 10 hitters in a 3 to 0 victory. His teammates Matt Moore and newly recalled Chris Archer may get more acclaim, but Cobb has averaged well over a strikeout per inning as a minor leaguer since 2010 and definitely has fantasy value. The 24 year-old won't dominate in the ERA category, but useful strikeout numbers and decent marks across the stat board make him worth a look in most mixed fantasy formats.
Joaquin Benoit - RP, Detroit Tigers (22% owned)
Phil Coke - RP, Detroit Tigers (3% owned)
There hasn't been a whole lot of news on the closer front this past week, but a sprained wrist has sidelined Tigers closer Jose Valverde for at least a few days and opened up some save opportunities for other relievers in Detroit. Valverde's injury isn't expected to be serious and he should return in a few days, but in the meantime the ninth inning duties should fall to veteran righthander Joaquin Benoit. The 34 year-old Benoit has been among the game's best setup men since reviving his career with the Rays back in 2010, and he enters Friday's game with a 1.93 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings of work this year. He's a valuable pitcher to have even without the save opportunities, but right now he is absolutely worth owning in mixed leagues. It's also possible that, depending on matchups and workload, some closer duties could fall to lefthanded pitcher Phil Coke too, so owners in deeper leagues should consider that as well.
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