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 31st, 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!
Brett Anderson - SP, Oakland Athletics (42% owned)
Oakland starting pitcher Brett Anderson returned from Tommy John surgery last week and has performed quite well in a pair of outings since then, earning him the trust of many fantasy owners and a spot in this week's article. Anderson debuted for Oakland back in 2009 and showed promise in 30 starts (11-11 record, 4.06 ERA, 150 strikeouts in 175 1/3 MLB innings) but has had much of his big league career derailed by injury. He was excellent in posting a 2.80 ERA in 19 starts in 2010 but has made just 15 MLB appearances since then. After an impressive 7 inning, 4 hit, 1 run, 6 strikeout game versus the Twins in his 2012 debut on August 21st, Anderson followed with a 7 inning, 2 hit, zero run, 5 strikeout performance against the Indians on the 27th. His pitch velocity and all other signs indicate that the 24 year-old is fully healthy again, and he could be an excellent fantasy pickup for the end of the season as he helps Oakland make a playoff push.
Pedro Ciriaco - 2B/3B/SS, Boston Red Sox (38% owned)
In just 148 major league at-bats, Red Sox infielder Pedro Ciriaco has shown the ability to contribute solid hitting numbers for both his Boston team and any fantasy team in need of help. His multi-position flexibility jumps out as a particularly desirable asset, but beyond that he is also an above-average contact hitter and baserunner. The 26 year-old former Diamondbacks and Pirates farmhand lacks home run power and doesn't typically pile up huge stolen base numbers (though he did have 78 total steals in a pair of seasons in Arizona's' low minor leagues in 2008 and 2009), but his hot hitting and 10-for-10 stolen bases line in 46 games for the Red Sox shouldn't be overlooked. Ciriaco won't maintain his .335-plus batting average, but overall he could flirt with a .300 mark in the final month and should snag some more stolen bases the rest of the way.
Luis Cruz - SS/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers (16% owned)
Though he might be somewhat overshadowed by all of the recent additions to the Dodgers, infielder Luis Cruz has been a vital part of the club's contention in 2012. The 28 year-old Mexican native has been a bit of a minor league journeyman since first inking with the Red Sox as a teenager back in 2001, but after short MLB stints with the Pirates and Brewers from 2008 to 2010, he looks like he might stay in the big leagues. With Hanley Ramirez now fully entrenched as the Dodgers starting shortstop, Cruz is seeing most of his time as the team's top third baseman and in 48 games for the team he has hit .292 with a .333 on-base mark and a .452 slugging percentage. His value is somewhat stymied by his lack of big home run power or stolen base speed, but Luis could be capable of 12 to 16 homers over a full season and has shown a knack for driving in runs this year (29 RBI in just 168 at-bats). Fantasy owners in need of corner or middle infield help should definitely consider bringing Cruz onto a roster.
Tyler Skaggs - SP, Arizona Diamondbacks (9% owned)
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a nice stable of up-and-coming young starting pitchers, and the latest one to make a big league impact is lefthander Tyler Skaggs. After uncharacteristically walking 5 hitters in his big league debut (a 6 2/3 inning, 2 run, 4 strikeout win on August 22nd), Skaggs showed more command and control in his next outing, though he took a loss. In his brief professional career, the 21 year-old has logged solid strikeout numbers (including a minor league average of 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings) along with low walk rates and beyond-his-years maturity, which bodes well for his chances at early big league success. The Los Angeles native entered 2012 as the third-best prospect in the Diamondbacks organization (per Baseball America) and has already shown more at the major league level than top-rated prospect Trevor Bauer, though his overall talent ceiling may be lower. Overall, he's an exciting young talent and could put up excellent numbers as a member of the D-Backs rotation in September.
Eric Stults - SP, San Diego Padres (7% owned)
He's no prospect, but 32 year-old Padres starting pitcher Eric Stults is blossoming as a big league pitcher in 2012 and has caught the eyes of more than a few fantasy owners recently. Stults showed up in our National League Under the Radar list back on August 9th after first flashing some success in the Padres rotation, and though his 2012 has been marked by his release from the White Sox and a trip to the disabled list, he looks poised to finish it as a valuable member of San Diego's starting staff. Increased use of his slider and the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park have helped Stults limit the home runs that plagued him during his major league time with the Dodgers and Rockies, and he's gone 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 1.00 WHIP since rejoining the Friars rotation on August 6th. His strikeout numbers are dreadfully low (with just 25 in 57 innings with the Padres this year) but he could be an appealing option for fantasy owners in deeper leagues.
Scott Podsednik - OF, Boston Red Sox (2% owned)
After not seeing a big league game in all of 2011, 36 year-old former All-Star and 2004 MLB stolen base champ Scott Podsednik has become a starting outfielder for the Boston Red Sox this season and is displaying some fair fantasy value. Podsednik logged a solid campaign for the Royals and Dodgers in 2010 by hitting .291 with 35 stolen bases, but he spent all of 2011 in the minor leagues. He hit well for Boston in May and June and his resurgence this year was unexpected, particularly after he was dealt to the Diamondbacks as part of the Craig Breslow deal on July 31st. The Diamondbacks released him just a few days later and since rejoining the Red Sox on August 10th, Podsednik has hit .317 and has seen time as the club's lead-off batter. He's stolen just one base this month, but history suggests he could get them in bunches if given a chance. Fantasy owners in need of steals and batting average help may want to roll the dice on the veteran and his skills right now.
Brandon League - RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (41% owned)
Javy Guerra - RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (22% owned)
Ronald Belisario - RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (12% owned)
Since assuming the closer role early this season, Dodgers righthander Kenley Jansen has been a solid and, at times, dominant end-game option for Los Angeles. However, this week it was revealed that an irregular heartbeat (that has sometimes been problematic for him in the past) is again becoming an issue, forcing Jansen to withdraw from the club indefinitely. With their closer out of commission and the team in the midst of a playoff race, the Dodgers will have to turn their ninth inning duties over to someone else. As a result, veteran righties Brandon League, Javy Guerra, and Ronald Belisario could all get a shot at the role. League was an All-Star closer for the Mariners last season before losing that spot and being traded to the Dodgers on July 30th, while Guerra was solid as the Dodgers closer last year but has not been particularly dominant as a big leaguer. Belisario has never closed regularly but could be the most overpowering of the three. Guerra was briefly demoted to complete the Rubby De La Rosa end of the Adrian Gonzalez trade last weekend but will return for September and October, and his 2.66 ERA this season trumps Belisario's 2.84 and League's 3.95 marks. However, it's possible that any one of them could see time in the ninth, so fantasy owners chasing saves should monitor this situation closely or make a speculative pickup right now.
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