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.
The first week of 2011 baseball is nearly in the books, and fantasy baseball has already has its share of surprises. 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 in the early stages of the fantasy campaign:
* Owned percentages via Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
Each week of the fantasy baseball season includes the fervent grab for saves, and this week is no different. While Fernando Rodney
had the Angels' closer job out of the gate this year, a messy save (a hit and a walk in one inning) and a blown save (one hit, three walks, two runs in one-third of an inning) led to his demotion from the role, opening the job up for 23 year-old hurler Jordan Walden. Walden posted a 2.35 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 15.1 innings with the Angels last season, and his move from starter to reliever while in the minors has paid huge dividends. He pitched mostly in double-A and logged just 6.2 innings at triple-A last season before his promotion to Anaheim, so inexperience may catch up to him a bit, but a solid strikeout rate and the chance to rack up some saves make him worth a pickup in all but the shallowest of leagues.
While reliever Drew Storen
may actually be Washington's closer of the future, the hurler presently taking the ninth inning for the Nats will be lefty Sean Burnett. Burnett has posted a 2.36 ERA in 91.1 innings since joining the Nationals from Pittsburgh via trade in 2009, and this success directly led to his move from late-inning lefty to closer. Furthermore, Burnett is coming off of a stellar 2010 performance in which he had a 2.14 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 63 innings. Storen and righthander Tyler Clippard
may get occasional save chances, but for the moment Burnett looks like the guy taking the majority of ninth innings. Expect Storen to usurp him eventually, but if you need saves and he happens to still be available, get Burnett on your roster.
Kyle Drabek was the key component of the 2009 trade that sent ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies, and after three passable starts at the end of last season, the son of former big leaguer Doug Drabek
may finally be ready to assert himself as a major league pitcher. The 23 year-old Texas native started off his 2011 season in style by taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and finishing his start against the Minnesota Twins with an impressive stat line: 7 innings, 1 hit, 1 earned run, 3 walks, and 7 strikeouts. Drabek's 7.5 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate (K/9) in the minor leagues suggests that he won't rack up whiffs like he did in his season debut, but a solid ERA and an ability to keep the ball in the ballpark makes Drabek a solid fantasy choice. His next two starts are on the road against the Angels and the Mariners, so expect solid but unspectacular numbers.
J. P. Arencibia
- C, Toronto Blue Jays (56% owned)
J. P. Arencibia burst on the scene in his major league debut last year by slugging two home runs and notching four hits on August 7th, and he made a similar impact in his first game of 2011 by smashing a pair of homers and driving in five runs in a rout of the Minnesota Twins. Arencibia will be relegated to some split duty with Jose Molina
as he adjusts to the rigors of being an everyday major league backstop, but his power potential makes him worth a pickup for teams carrying two catchers or simply searching for some offensive aptitude from a shallow fantasy position. The 25 year-old Florida native may not put up a great batting average like the .301 mark he posted at AAA Las Vegas in 2010, but his 53 minor league homers in 2009 and 2010 and the 4 he's slugged for the Blue Jays hint at a massive power potential that could help fantasy owners this season.
- C, New York Yankees (53% owned)
Many fantasy owners seem to have forgotten about Russell Martin, who now makes his living at the bottom of the New York Yankees lineup. Formerly one of the best hitting catchers in baseball, the nicks and bruises of the game's toughest position have severely depleted Martin's offensive value over the last few years, but joining a top-notch lineup seems to have revitalized him in 2011. He's already logged a couple of stolen bases and his run and RBI numbers may benefit greatly from the more dynamic hitters around him. He'll get the bulk of the catching duties and while one shouldn't expect him to rebound to his prime offensive years, the 28 year-old former Dodger is proving he can help your fantasy numbers.
' injury and Aubrey Huff
's subsequent move to the outfield opened a door for first base uber-prospect Brandon Belt on the San Francisco Giants' 2011 roster, and the 22 year-old responded by hitting a three-run homer in just his second major league game. Though Belt has struggled some to start off the year, he's displayed good plate discipline and looks like he's very close to being an impact bat as a rookie (not unlike his teammate Buster Posey
in 2010). The ceiling on Belt is extremely high, as he rocketed through the Giants minor league system last year and hit a combined .353 with a .455 on-base average, 23 home runs, 112 RBI, and 23 stolen bases between high-A, double-A, and triple-A ball. Belt may head back to the minor leagues for some everyday playing time once Ross returns from the disabled list, but in the short term he can help in several fantasy categories and, if he hits well enough, he may force the Giants to keep him around for a while.
Another Giant who might be able to chip in with some fantasy help is second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who is off to a fast start in 2011. Sanchez has suffered through a variety of nagging injuries over the past few seasons, and as a result his contributions have been sporadic. A .299 career hitter, Sanchez doesn't contribute a lot of home runs or really steal any bases, but he won the National League batting title with the Pirates in 2006 and he has a knack for putting good contact on the ball. Entrenched as the number two hitter for San Francisco, Sanchez should continue to see plenty of pitches to hit and could have opportunities to score and drive in runs in a solid San Francisco offensive attack. Second base is a pretty weak fantasy position in 2011, so a guy like Sanchez could be of great help to fantasy owners waiting for Chase Utley
's return, or anyone who just needs a bit of a boost in the middle infield.
While he's far from a household name, Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison is already off to an impressive start in his first major league March and April. Morrison hit .283 with just two home runs in 287 plate appearances in the last few months of the 2010 season, but he posted a .390 on-base percentage and seemed right at home facing big league hurlers. The 23 year-old has built on that good start this season, as he's already smacked a pair of homers and appears to have a fairly solid hold on a spot in the middle of the Florida lineup. One probably shouldn't expect big power numbers from Morrison, but he has proven so far that he knows what he's doing at the plate and his keen eye and ability to make good contact should translate to RBI, runs, and solid average and on-base numbers for any fantasy owner looking to fill an outfield spot.