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 that might help you boost your fantasy team in 2011.
Under the Radar - Mixed Leagues
Friday June 17th, 2011
With all of the unpredictable injuries, slumps, and job changes, many fantasy owners are already looking to the waiver wire for help in keeping their early season hopes alive. Here are some mixed league options for owners looking to make additions at this point in the season:
* Owned percentages via Yahoo!
Mike Moustakas - 3B, Kansas City Royals (39% owned)
Over the weekend, the Kansas City Royals finally unleashed highly-anticipated third baseman Mike Moustakas, the top prospect in their strong minor league system. Moustakas tied for the minor league lead with 36 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A ball last year, also hitting for a combined .322 average with 124 RBI and 41 doubles. He had 10 home runs in just 55 games for Omaha prior to his call-up and, despite posting most of his amazing numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Moustakas is universally recognized as one of baseball's top power-hitting youngsters. He notched hits in his first four big league games and homered in his second appearance on June 11th, so he's off to a solid start. He should be Kansas City's regular third baseman for the remainder of the 2011 season and, if he can fulfill some of his massive potential, could provide a significant power bat to a fantasy team in need of a boost.
Dustin Ackley - 2B/OF, Seattle Mariners (21% owned)
The latest minor league call-up spurring excitement around the baseball world is Seattle Mariners prospect Dustin Ackley, who should become the club's everyday second baseman upon his arrival. Ackley was the second overall pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft and had several spots of success in the minor leagues prior to his 2011 start at Triple-A Tacoma. This season, Ackley caught fire for the Rainiers and already has 9 home runs, 7 stolen bases, a .303 average, and a .421 on-base percentage in just 66 games, all of which prompted the big club to take notice and expedite his arrival. As an added bonus, some fantasy leagues (Yahoo! included) may have Ackley listed as an outfielder and, as soon as he logs the necessary time at second base, he could have dual positional eligibility for owners. Ackley's ceiling is very high and the University of North Carolina product makes for a solid speculative pick, though he hasn't yet appeared in a major league game so it's important not to assume immediate success.
J.J. Hardy - SS, Baltimore Orioles (39% owned)
One of the hottest hitters this month is Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has hit over .400 in June and is looking more and more like the player who posted back-to-back 20-plus home run campaigns for the Brewers a few seasons ago. Hardy's hot hitting has even prompted a move to the top of the Orioles batting order and, while he is far from a traditional leadoff man, he is thriving in his new role. He enters play on Friday with a nine-game hitting streak and 4 home runs already this month, and he's raised his season average to around .300 while putting a dreadful month of May well behind him. He has never been one to hit for an exceptional batting average, but Hardy is an above-average power hitter and has a reputation as a very streaky slugger, so any fantasy roster in need of middle infield help and home runs should definitely look to enlist his services.
Justin Ruggiano - OF, Tampa Bay Rays (3% owned)
Justin Ruggiano is far from a household name, but fans of the Durham Bulls are probably quite familiar with the Texas native, as he spent large chunks of the last five baseball seasons as a regular outfielder for the Rays Triple-A club. A former Dodgers farmhand, Ruggiano has shown good skills in the minor leagues but never made an impact in major league stints prior to 2011, but he is now making his mark. His minor league stats are pretty impressive, as he hit .287 with a .357 on-base percentage, 15 home runs, and 24 stolen bases (6 caught) for Durham in 2010. He was off to a fast start there before his recall, and he's impressed folks in Tampa Bay by tallying 15 hits and 2 home runs in just 10 games so far this month. It's very possible that Ruggiano's hot June start may fade into another Sam Fuld situation, but as long as he is posting multi-hit games, he'll be in the Tampa Bay lineup a lot. He could be a valuable short-term asset for a fantasy squad in need of an increase in batting average, and his power and steal potential could be an additional benefit.
Rubby De La Rosa - SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (4% owned)
The Dodgers organization is in disarray this year while stuck under the financial and personal controversies of club owner Frank McCourt, but a few bright spots have emerged and one is pitching prospect Rubby De La Rosa. De La Rosa jumped directly from Double-A affiliate Chattanooga and began his big league career in the Dodgers bullpen, even earning some consideration via one of our AL/NL Only Under the Radar pieces, but after just three outings he replaced injured starter Jon Garland in the starting rotation. He's been impressive in a pair of five-inning starts for L.A., posting wins in both games and striking out 10 hitters. He averaged better than a strikeout per inning as a minor leaguer and his 15 whiffs in 15 big league innings suggest that, as he acclimates to being a major league starter, he could be capable of posting excellent strikeout numbers. He may succumb to inexperience as the year rolls on, but for now the 22 year-old could be a great streaming option (or possibly more) for fantasy teams in need of help.
Laynce Nix - OF, Washington Nationals (11% owned)
Nationals outfielder Laynce Nix was featured in an AL/NL Only Under the Radar back in mid-May, but his continued steady production is worthy of mixed league attention as well. Nix is a bit of a journeyman, but he's shown flashes of hitting potential in the past and could be a nice fill-in for the right fantasy team. It's worth noting that Nix almost never plays against lefthanded pitchers, and he has just two hits and two walks in 17 plate appearances against southpaws this season. But the 30 year-old has been excellent versus righthanders in 2011 and has hit .312 in 141 at-bats against them. His 9 home runs put him on an excellent pace over a full season, and if he's in the Nationals lineup, he could certainly be a fantasy contributor.
Mike Leake - SP, Cincinnati Reds (18% owned)
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake made the difficult jump straight from college ball to the big leagues last season and, despite some late-season struggles, finished with a respectable 8-4 win-loss record and a 4.23 ERA. Leake began 2011 in the Reds rotation but, as a result of some rough outings, was pushed into the bullpen. He was eventually demoted and played minor league ball for the first time in his career before rejoining the Reds. Since his return, Leake has been one of the club's most dependable hurlers, posting quality starts in all four of his outings and lowering his season ERA from 5.70 to 4.06. His last start was an eight-inning gem against the Giants, and he held the reigning champs scoreless while striking out eight hitters. Leake isn't a dominant strikeout pitcher and is prone to allowing baserunners, but he's capable of good things and could be worth watching. He has some tough competition coming up as the Reds take on the Blue Jays and Yankees in interleague play, but if he shines in those games it could be an excellent sign of his development as a fantasy option.
Marco Scutaro - SS/2B, Boston Red Sox (12% owned)
Boston infielder Marco Scutaro has been red-hot since returning from the disabled list on June 7th, and his eligibility at both middle infield spots makes him well worth a look in most fantasy leagues. Since his return, Scutaro has raised his 2011 batting average from .235 to over .270 and he appears to have the inside track to the everyday shortstop job. Fellow shortstop Jed Lowrie has also been productive this year, but Lowrie's recent nagging injuries and June struggles at the plate don't heed well for his chances to stay in the Red Sox lineup. Scutaro scored 92 runs in 2010 and 100 for the Blue Jays the season before, and he's also tallied double-digit home run numbers each of the last two years, so if he can hit to his potential and log regular playing time he could be a great fantasy pickup for the remainder of the year.
Yorvit Torrealba - C, Texas Rangers (5% owned)
Veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba will see an increased role with the potent Texas Rangers offense, now that catcher/infielder Mike Napoli has been placed on the disabled list with a strained oblique. Torrealba will be the primary backstop for the Rangers, but recently recalled Taylor Teagarden will also see some time for the club. Yorvit is far from a star hitter, but he's show flashes of power in the past and has proven himself to be a pretty capable contact hitter in the last couple of years. Fantasy owners in two-catcher leagues may need to enlist his services, and being part of the heavy-hitting Rangers lineup is reason enough to give him a look. Furthermore, Torrealba has been on a hitting binge since June 7th, with an eight-game hitting streak and five multi-hit games raising his average from .208 to .253.
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