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 September 28th, 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!
Chris Tillman - SP, Baltimore Orioles (33% owned)
After stumbling to a 7-15 record and a 5.58 ERA in 36 starts for the Baltimore Orioles from 2009 to 2011, righthanded pitcher Chris Tillman did not enter 2012 with high expectations. Tillman began the season in the minor leagues, but since his call-up in early July, the 24 year-old hurler has pitched quite effectively and has been a key part of the Orioles' surprising playoff run. In 13 starts this year, Tillman is 8-2 with a 3.08 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, and 57 strikeouts in 73 innings pitched. His huge turnaround likely has a lot to do with his improved fastball velocity, as he is averaging 92.4 miles per hour on his heater this season, up from 89.5 in 2011 (source: Fangraphs). Despite impressive numbers in 2012, Tillman is still available in a large number of fantasy leagues as he enters his start on Friday against the Red Sox. This start will likely be Tillman's last of the season, but he's fared quite well in a pair of outings against Boston this year and is an ideal fantasy streaming option for his final game.
Jeff Keppinger - 1B/2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays (16% owned)
The Tampa Bay Rays have had a lot of contributions in their late-season push for the playoffs in 2012, and one of the key players in that move has been veteran infielder Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger isn't much of an impact player when it comes to home runs or stolen bases, but his steady batting average and ability to play multiple positions are useful to the Rays, and to his fantasy owners. Kep has put in significant time at first, second, and third base for Tampa Bay this year, and he enters play on Friday with .332 season average. The 32 year-old utility man has hit safely in eight of his last nine games and is hitting 16 for 34 (.471) with 2 home runs, 6 RBI, and 10 runs scored in that span. With many regulars getting rest and hurting fantasy rosters down the final stretch of the year, a hot-hitting player who can fill multiple lineup spots can be extremely valuable, and for that reason Keppinger is a great asset right now.
Nate McLouth - OF, Baltimore Orioles (15% owned)
Outfielder Nate McLouth has never replicated the breakout season he posted for the Pirates back in 2008 when he hit .276 with 26 home runs, 94 RBI and 23 stolen bases, but the 30 year-old Michigan native has caught fire lately and has provided an unexpected boost for the playoff-contending Baltimore Orioles. After struggling badly and hitting just .140 in 34 games with Pittsburgh this season, McLouth (after a minor league stint) rebounded nicely with the Orioles by hitting .274 with a .349 on-base average, 6 home runs, 17 RBI, and 10 stolen bases (1 caught) in 49 games, which earned him a spot in our August 29th AL/NL Under the Radar piece. He has settled in nicely at the top of the O's batting order and has hit 14 for 45 (.311) with 3 home runs and 9 runs scored in his last 10 games. He won't pile up statistics in any one category, but McLouth is a perfect fantasy option for owners looking to fill gaps and plug a hot bat into their lineups this week.
Kurt Suzuki - C, Washington Nationals (13% owned)
A disappointing 2011 season carried over to the early part of 2012 for catcher Kurt Suzuki, and after hitting just .218 in 75 games (262 at-bats) for the Oakland Athletics, the club traded him to the Washington Nationals in early August. Since joining the Nats, Suzuki has shown much more of the hitting that made him a solid run producer for the A's in 2009, and he's once again finding his way back to some fantasy rosters. For Washington this season, Suzuki has hit .271 with 5 home runs and 23 RBI in just 129 at-bats and has provided the playoff-bound Nationals with a capable alternative to backstop Jesus Flores. Kurt appears to be getting most of the playing time at catcher and has hit safely in his last four games, and he could provide an above-average power bat at the catcher spot for some fantasy owners.
Steve Johnson - SP/RP, Baltimore Orioles (4% owned)
Much like his Baltimore teammates mentioned above, righthanded rookie pitcher Steve Johnson is not a likely contributor for a playoff-contending club, but the 25 year-old Maryland native has been excellent over the last two months of play. Johnson has worked as both a starter and a reliever for the Orioles this year and has excelled in both roles, posting a 4-0 record, a 1.62 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP, and 43 strikeouts in 33 1/3 major league innings. His 2.86 ERA mark in 19 games (91 1/3 innings, 14 starts) for Triple-A Norfolk this season is proving not to be a fluke, and he'll toe the mound for his last regular season start on Saturday against the Red Sox. Johnson's string of 21 2/3 scoreless innings and his high strikeout numbers make him a smart play for fantasy owners this weekend.
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