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 July 20th, 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!
Delmon Young - OF, Detroit Tigers (33% owned)
Outfielder Delmon Young was viewed as a capable but so-so fantasy player through the first few seasons of his career (with the Rays and Twins), due mainly to his solid batting average and prospect speculation. In 2010, Young broke out with 21 home runs, 46 doubles, and 112 RBI while hitting .298, which led many to believe that he had finally become the hitter that his great potential suggested he could be. Last year, though, he regressed some and hit just .268 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI in 124 games with the Twins and Tigers. He started this season in similarly mediocre fashion but has caught fire some lately and in 18 games since June 27th he has hit .307 with 5 home runs and 14 RBI. He's collected a hit in 16 of those 18 games and he homered in four straight contests from July 5th to July 8th, which could signal that he is primed for a strong second half. His batting average should be an asset regardless, but if he can contribute a steady supply of home runs he could be an excellent fourth or fifth outfielder.
Lorenzo Cain - OF, Kansas City Royals (12% owned)
After a good minor league season last year and a red-hot spring at the plate, Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain was a popular sleeper pick among hopeful fantasy owners on draft day this year. Alas, he tore his hip flexor just five games into the 2012 season and was on the disabled list until last Friday. Cain wasted no time in making a mark and had three hits in his first game back on July 13th, and he has been posting pretty good numbers since then, even homering in back-to-back games on the 17th and 18th. The 26 year-old is known for his good batting average and on-base numbers (his minor league career numbers are .294 and .367, respectively) and his speed, but he's capable of slugging some home runs too and had a career-best 16 long balls for Triple-A Omaha last year. It looks like he should see fairly regular playing time for the rest of the season, and if he performs, he can provide help in multiple roto categories. Fantasy owners should certainly pounce on him before it's too late.
Justin Morneau - 1B, Minnesota Twins (38% owned)
A disappointing and injury-shortened 2011 season really hurt the fantasy value of four-time All Star and 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau entering this year, and he did very little early on to instill a lot of confidence from owners who invested in him. Lately, though, Morneau has looked more like the dynamic hitter he once was and appears to be ready to reenter fantasy significance once again. Since starting a 14-game hitting streak on June 27th (which ended July 17th), Morneau is hitting .329 (23 for 70) with 10 runs scored. He's up to a .250 batting average, 11 home runs, and 40 RBI this year, which aren't eye-popping numbers but are an improvement on the sub-.230 mark he had last year and early on this season. Fantasy owners should temper their expectations, but if Morneau can finish strong in 2012 he could be a valuable asset as a reserve corner infielder, or possibly more.
Alexi Amarista - 2B/SS/OF, San Diego Padres (15% owned)
Padres infielder/outfielder Alexi Amarista was featured in our AL/NL Only Under the Radar piece just before the All Star break, but he's quickly catapulted himself into mixed league relevance. Amarista entered 2012 as the 19th-best prospect in the Los Angeles Angels organization (according to Baseball America) and was dealt to San Diego on May 3rd as part of the deal that sent reliever Ernesto Frieri to the Angels. The 23 year-old utility man is capable of hitting for a high batting average and has a career minor league mark of .312, but he lacks any real home run power and has below-average walk numbers. He steals bases, but doesn't have great speed and was caught stealing roughly a third of the time during his time in the Angels and Padres farm systems. But despite his shortcomings, Amarista holds significant fantasy value due to his ability to play all over the infield and outfield while still slapping hits and hustling around the bases. In 48 games with the Padres, he's put up a .298 average, a .329 on-base percentage, 3 stolen bases (3 caught), 19 runs scored and a surprising 4 home runs. He won't dominate, but he can help all over a fantasy lineup and provide some help in a few categories, and at this point looks like he's worth a roster spot in most leagues.
A.J. Griffin - SP, Oakland Athletics (5% owned)
Oakland righthander A.J. Griffin is essentially an unknown when compared to more heavily hyped rookie hurlers like Yu Darvish, Trevor Bauer, and even his teammate Jarrod Parker, but in five starts this year he has quickly proven that he belongs in the big leagues. After tossing six innings of two-run ball for a victory over the Yankees Thursday night, Griffin is now 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and 20 strikeouts in 30 innings. Griffen has risen quickly since opening the 2011 season at Low-A Burlington and Baseball America ranked him as Oakland's 13th-best prospect prior to the 2012 season. The 24 year-old was mainly a reliever at the University of San Diego and started his pro career out of the bullpen, but good command of his low-90's fastball and quality off-speed selections have helped him stick as a starter. He limits baserunners extremely well and posted a very impressive 0.91 WHIP with just 72 hits and 14 walks allowed in 94 2/3 innings before his call-up this year. He'll post just passable strikeout numbers and probably won't dominate as a big leaguer, but he's proven himself against tough lineups like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers (against whom he tossed 6 shutout innings) and has fantasy value as a streaming option or a roster-worthy player in deeper leagues.
Drew Storen - RP, Washington Nationals (67% owned)
Nationals reliever Drew Storen returned from the disabled list and recovery from his elbow surgery this week and, while he's owned in many fantasy leagues, his ownership numbers are somewhat skewed by "dead" teams that drafted him before the season and never dropped him. Storen tossed a perfect inning in a 9-5 loss to the Mets on Thursday but it appears he may not immediately resume the closer role that he thrived in while notching 43 saves for Washington last season. Setup man Tyler Clippard has done well since assuming the ninth inning role and at this point it's fair to speculate that he'll see most of the save opportunities, but Storen should be in the mix there and could overtake the job or at least earn split duties in upcoming weeks.
Francisco Rodriguez - RP, Milwaukee Brewers (43% owned)
A volatile season from incumbent Brewers closer John Axford finally came to a breaking point on Monday when the 29 year-old blew a three-run ninth inning lead against the Cardinals. That outing raised his season ERA to 5.35, a far cry from the 1.95 he posted during his 46-save campaign last season. Setup man Francisco Rodriguez has now been installed as the team's stopper, and while K-Rod has been far from dominant in 2012, he can still nail down saves when needed. His 3.71 ERA and 1.49 WHIP this season are indicative of his inability to keep the bases clear, but he has already posted two saves this week. It's quite likely that Rodriguez will either be traded or move back to a setup role when Axford regains his old job, but in the short term he is worth a pickup for fantasy owners chasing saves.
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