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 August 17th, 2012
With all of the unpredictable injuries, job changes, and trades 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!
Manny Machado - SS/3B, Baltimore Orioles (52% owned)
Some fantasy owners were careful about adding top Orioles infielder prospect Manny Machado when he was recalled from Double-A Bowie last week, particularly since he was batting just .266 with 11 home runs in 109 games prior to his big league debut. However, since joining the O's Machado has been fantastic and the 20 year-old enters play on Friday with a .308 average, 3 home runs, and 7 RBI in just 26 at-bats. Veteran J.J. Hardy has maintained his job as the team's starting shortstop, which has moved Machado to third base and added another position of eligibility to his fantasy profile in most leagues. Manny entered 2012 as Baltimore's top prospect and the 11th-best prospect in baseball (according to Baseball America), and despite some so-so minor league statistics he still profiles as a star-quality big leaguer who may contribute in all fantasy categories. If he can maintain production near the level of his hot start, Machado could be a great asset for owners until the end of the year. He might be already on a roster in a lot of leagues (and is likely long gone in dynasty and keeper leagues), but on the chance he is available, he's well worth a pickup.
Eric Young Jr. - 2B/OF, Colorado Rockies (18% owned)
Rockies outfielder Eric Young Jr. has had multiple stints as a big league player since 2009 but, despite some impressive defensive play and stolen base numbers, he hit just .246 in 427 at-bats for Colorado prior to 2012. However, the son of former Rockies star Eric Young Sr. worked his way up from a reserve role this year and is among baseball's hottest hitters lately. In 16 games since July 31st, Young has raised his 2012 season batting average from .248 to .323 by going 27 for 59 (.458) with 14 runs scored, 5 doubles and 3 home runs. He has started 13 of those 16 games (including his last 10) and looks like the leadoff hitter the club envisioned him to be when they first brought him up to the majors over three years ago. Most of his 13 stolen bases this year came from his time as a reserve and pinch hitter, but he is very capable of piling them up and he could be due to add to that total over the next six weeks of the season. As a bonus, the 27 year-old still retains second base eligibility in many leagues, making him even more valuable to fantasy owners.
Garrett Jones - 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (31% owned)
Even before smashing a pair of three-run homers against the Dodgers on Thursday afternoon, Pirates first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones was having a very productive stretch this season and even made our AL/NL Under the Radar piece back in early July. The 31 year-old Jones has only been a big league regular since 2009 but already has a pair of 20 home run campaigns on his resume, though his overall batting average has been lackluster since his rookie year line of .293, and his second-half struggles have usually tanked his overall season numbers. This season, though, Jones has been better than expected and enters play on Friday with 19 home runs, 64 RBI, and a .283 batting average. He's hitting .315 since the All Star break and has been a significant run-producing force behind Pirates star outfielder Andrew McCutchen by slugging 14 homers since June 1st. This recent surge has helped his team hang in the playoff hunt and has also put him on the fantasy radar. Jones' high level of current production and eligibility at both first base and in the outfield make him well worth adding to mostly any mixed league roster right now.
Todd Frazier - 3B/1B/OF, Cincinnati Reds (25% owned)
Reds infielder/outfielder Todd Frazier was a first-round draft choice out of Rutgers University back in the 2007 amateur draft and, prior to late July of 2011, spent five seasons playing various positions at several levels of the team's minor league system. This year, at the age of 26, Frazier has really broken through to establish himself as a key part of the Reds offense, and he is putting up very good numbers in his first (almost) full major league season. Frazier enters play on Friday with a .283/.342/.536 triple-slash (average/on-base/slugging) line and 15 home runs, and in just 7 games since August 9th he has raised his hitting line nearly 20 points (from .267). The New Jersey native began his professional baseball career as a shortstop but has played mainly at third base, left field, and first base this season. The injury to former NL MVP first baseman Joey Votto in mid-July opened more playing time for Frazier, and he has seized the opportunity. Only time will tell whether Frazier is just running hot or has truly developed as a hitter, but either way fantasy owners should certainly utilize the versatile former prospect.
Lucas Harrell - SP, Houston Astros (12% owned)
Good pitching on bad teams is sometimes overlooked in fantasy baseball, and one hurler who may not (but should) be on many owners' radar at this point is Astros righthander Lucas Harrell. Harrell turned in an impressive 8 inning, 6 hit, 1 run, 2 walk, 7 strikeout victory in his latest outing against the Cubs on August 14th, and in his last ten starts (64 2/3 innings) the 27 year-old has posted a 2.23 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, and 63 strikeouts. As a result of playing for the last-place Astros, Harrell won just four of those outings, but the former White Sox farmhand is still 10-8 this season and has now lowered his 2012 ERA to 3.81. He certainly won't give fantasy owners too much help in the wins category, but the Missouri native is one of MLB's hottest starting pitchers and looks like a favorable option in nearly any format right now.
Patrick Corbin - SP/RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (10% owned)
As the Arizona Diamondbacks try to keep their playoff hopes alive, they've found contributions from some unlikely players in their organization, and one of those players has been 23 year-old lefthander Patrick Corbin. Prior to this season, Corbin was perhaps best known as one of the minor leaguers that the Los Angeles Angels sent to the D-Backs in July of 2010 as part of the Dan Haren trade, but his success as both a reliever and starter this season may change that perception. In his last three starts, Corbin has allowed just 4 runs (in 19 innings) while striking out 19 hitters. Baseball America rated Corbin as the Diamondbacks' 9th-best prospect entering the 2012 season, though he ranked behind fellow southpaws Tyler Skaggs, David Holmberg, and Wade Miley in Arizona's lefty-filled farm system. Corbin's athleticism has helped him add velocity to his fastball (which now routinely sits in the low 90's) and his improving changeup and slider give him a strong arsenal for his deceptive three-quarters delivery. By averaging roughly 8 strikeouts per nine innings and continuing his success in the rotation, Corbin could be a great pickup for owners seeking a helpful, lesser-known starting pitcher.
Dale Thayer - RP, San Diego Padres (19% owned)
Luke Gregerson - RP, San Diego Padres (10% owned)
After a dominant stretch of active play, Padres closer Huston Street went on the disabled list again on August 11th and opened opportunities for teammates Dale Thayer and Luke Gregerson to notch some saves until his return from a calf injury. Thayer, a 31 year-old veteran with lots of experience closing in the minor leagues, was Street's replacement earlier in the year and looks like the frontrunner to fill in right now, and his clean save on August 13th seems to back up that speculation. However, Gregerson has been the more effective reliever overall this season and it's possible that, despite a lack of end-game service time, he could be a ninth inning option. Street isn't expected to immediately return by the end of his minimum of 15 days on the disabled list and, with the Padres well out of playoff contention, the club may be careful to bring him back too quickly. This should provide opportunities Thayer and Gregerson, and fantasy owners in need of saves would be wise to add one or both hurlers. Thayer appears to have the upper hand on the closer job right now, but Gregerson (or even another pitcher) could seize the role if he struggles, so this situation should be monitored closely by interested fantasy managers.
Andrew Bailey - RP, Boston Red Sox (49% owned)
Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey finally made his season debut on Tuesday night, and his scoreless inning in a loss to the Orioles was likely quite satisfying after a four-and-a-half stretch on the disabled list. Bailey was acquired from Oakland this past winter as a replacement for departed free agent closer Jonathan Papelbon, but the former Athletic suffered a torn ligament in his thumb back in the spring and went on the 60 day DL. After auditioning a few different players for their ninth inning duties, Boston has closed games with Alfredo Aceves for most of the year, but he has been inconsistent at times and may have a precarious hold on the job. If Bailey can prove that he is fully healthy and able to assume more of a workload, it's possible that Boston will make him the closer for the rest of the season. The former AL Rookie of the Year winner will need to pitch well to get the job, but the two-time All Star and had some excellent seasons as Oakland's stopper and, if fully healthy, could once again be one of the league's better late-inning pitchers.
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