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Under the Radar - Mixed Leagues
Dan Port | Friday May 18th, 2012
Wei-Yin Chen lacks hype, but has plenty of pitching talent. (US Presswire)
Wei-Yin Chen lacks hype, but has plenty of pitching talent. (US Presswire)
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.

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!

Wei-Yin Chen - SP, Baltimore Orioles (20% owned)
While young pitching phenom Yu Darvish was gathering most of the hype and media attention this off-season, another Japanese League pitcher inked a deal with an American club and, like his former countryman, Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen has been mowing down AL hitters this season.  The 26 year-old lefthander inked a three-year deal worth just under $12 million back in January and has started this year with a 4-0 win-loss mark and a 2.45 ERA in seven starts for the O's.  While he isn't as dynamic as Darvish and doesn't pile up strikeouts, Chen has exhibited good control and a skill for minimizing opponent scoring, particularly via the home run.  His stat of just three homers allowed in 44 innings is in line with the numbers he posted overseas and, if the trend continues, he could prove to be a very valuable fantasy commodity by the end of the season.

Joe Blanton - SP, Philadelphia Phillies (26% owned)
Statistically, Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton has been a sub-par to awful major league pitcher for so long that most fantasy owners have not noticed the excellent numbers he is posting this year.  Blanton is often forgotten behind Philadelphia's otherworldly rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, but this season he is hanging in well with that group and has posted a 4-3 record with a 2.96 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 8 games (7 starts).  Even in his best seasons back in Oakland five or six years ago, Blanton didn't post very good strikeout numbers, but his 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) rate in 2012 is acceptable for fantasy purposes and, if he can keep doing what he is doing, he has plenty of roto value.  With Blanton, there is always fear that a horrible start is right around the corner, but owners in need of pitching help could certainly exploit easy matchups or favorable home starts for him.

Christian Friedrich - SP, Colorado Rockies (15% owned)
Rockies lefthander Christian Friedrich seemed destined for a fine big league career after ranking second on Baseball America's list of Colorado's top ten prospects back at the start of the 2010 season, but his ascension to the majors came slower than expected.  The 25th overall pick in 2008 posted back-to-back disappointing seasons for Double-A Tulsa in 2010 and 2011, combining for a 5.02 ERA in 220 2/3 innings (43 starts) and by the start of 2012 he was no longer one of the club's top ten prospects.  However, this past off-season Friedrich dropped over thirty pounds and sought advice from veteran pitchers Jamie Moyer and Cliff Lee, and the results have been impressive.  The 24 year-old opened 2012 by posting a 3.00 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP in 5 starts with Triple-A Colorado Springs, and in a pair of starts for the Rockies he has a win, just 2 earned runs allowed, and 17 strikeouts in just 13 innings.  Granted, those starts came against the meager offenses of the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres, but if he can somewhat maintain his drastically improved strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) rate this year, he could continue his success.  His next start (against Seattle on Saturday May 19th) looks favorable, so now is an excellent time for fantasy owners to scoop him up and see what he can do.

Yonder Alonso - 1B/OF, San Diego Padres (25% owned)
Outfielder and first baseman Yonder Alonso was the key prospect involved in the December trade that sent ace pitcher Mat Latos from the Padres to the Reds and, despite some early season scuffles, the 25 year-old is starting to garner some fantasy attention.  For years, Alonso was blocked in Cincy by 2010 NL MVP first baseman Joey Votto and began seeing time as an outfielder with the Reds, but he is now the starting first baseman for San Diego.  While he has just one home run this year, Alonso is hitting .333 in May and his minor league power numbers indicate that he could finish 2012 with at least a dozen home runs, even while playing his home games in hitter-friendly Petco Park.  Alonso isn't a game-changing slugger, but his solid batting average and spot in the middle of the Padres lineup could give him plenty of RBI (and fantasy value) this season.

Andy Dirks - OF, Detroit Tigers (32% owned)
After showing potential in his 78 major league games last year, Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks has done even better thus far in 2012.  Dirks enters play on Friday hitting .369/.430/.619 (average/on-base/slugging) with 4 home runs, 5 doubles, and 2 triples, good enough to cement him an everyday spot for Detroit.  Nothing about the 26 year-old Kansas native suggests he'll maintain that outstanding hitting average or crack a high amount of home runs over a full season, but he had a .292 career batting mark as a minor leaguer and should have little problem piling up some extra base hits this year.  Dirks could be an ideal fill-in or bench bat for a fantasy team in need of a boost, particularly since he is hitting second in the Tigers order and directly ahead of sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Mark Ellis - 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers (12% owned)
This season, veteran infielder Mark Ellis has very quietly crept to a spot among the National League leaders in runs scored, and that alone makes him worth some fantasy baseball recognition.  The 34 year-old former Oakland and Colorado second baseman has often been on the fantasy fringe because of his ability to scratch out solid home run and stolen base numbers, but his batting average (.266 career) has usually fallen short.  However, in 2012, Ellis has been hitting second in the Los Angeles lineup and benefiting from the hot hitting of teammates Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.  Even with Kemp on the disabled list, Ellis can still be a valuable run-scoring option and on-base man for a fantasy team in need of middle infield help, and his past double-digit homer and steal numbers bode well for his value through the end of the year.

Closer News:
Rafael Soriano - RP, New York Yankees (61% owned)
Though there is a very good chance that he was already picked up in most fantasy leagues, it's still quite necessary to give a mention to Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano this week.  While David Robertson initially took over the closing duties from the injured Mariano Rivera, Robertson has now suffered an injury of his own and joined his elder teammate on the Yankees disabled list.  Soriano was a dominant closer for the Rays in 2010 and has been quite effective this season, so on the off chance he's still out there, owners need to add him immediately.

Ernesto Frieri - RP, Los Angeles Angels (18% owned)
Angels righthander Ernesto Frieri is not currently his squad's closer, but that could change soon.  Lefty Scott Downs has been excellent ever since he took the closer role from sputtering youngster Jordan Walden, but a knee injury could effect his performance and call for him to be replaced or at least used carefully in the near future.  Furthermore, Frieri's outstanding 2012 numbers (16 1/3 innings, 28 strikeouts, a 1.65 ERA) might prompt a switch at some point.  Fantasy owners chasing saves or just solid pitching numbers may be wise to use a roster spot to add him before it's too late.
Dan PortDan Port has been a writer and article editor for Baseball Press since the fall of 2009. He's a Wisconsin native and Los Angeles resident, as well as an aspiring novelist, moderately successful gambler, and avid craft beer aficionado. You can reach him at dan@baseballpress.com or check him out on Twitter @danport and at DanielPort.com.