Each week, Baseball Press will be providing some "under the radar" fantasy players for AL-only leagues, NL-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.
This week, more injuries opened up more holes on fantasy rosters, sending owners to the waiver wire for pickups. Some of the AL/NL-only options below are short-term fixes, while others may turn into long-term members of your roster. Either way, all are worthy of your a claim if you have a hole to fill.
* Owned percentages via Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
- C, Detroit Tigers (2% owned)
Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who some expected to eventually develop into an offensive force, seems to be ready earlier than expected. The 24 year-old Avila played in 151 minor league games before breaking camp with the Tigers last season, and he has not made a trip back to the minors since then. His weak performance at the plate last year didn't even warrant a spot as a second catcher in an AL-only fantasy league, but in the first week-plus of play this season he has already hit three home runs and stolen a base. Grab him while you can, because if he keeps producing like this he will not be on the waiver wire for long.
- OF, Tampa Bay Rays (1% owned)
As a result of Manny Ramirez's
"retirement", Sam Fuld is now the primary leftfielder and leadoff man for the Tampa Bay Rays. The 2007 Arizona Fall League MVP came to the Rays from the Chicago Cubs via the seven-player trade that sent Matt Garza
to the north side. Fuld's strengths lie in his plus defense and ability on the bases, and he's already collected five stolen bases his first 31 plate appearances of the year. Besides being a great source for stolen bases, it appears Rays manager Joe Maddon
is happy with Fuld at the top of the order and, once the Rays offense heats up, he will also be very helpful in the runs category.
- 2B, Kansas City Royals (2% owned)
Royals starting second basemen Chris Getz is a solid source of steals in the infield. After posting great offensive numbers in double and triple-A, Getz has struggled at the plate in the major leagues the past two seasons. However, the now 27 year-old Michigan product no longer seems overmatched with the bat and was hitting .345 with a 1.25 walk-to-strikeout ratio (BB/K) entering week two of the season. Kansas City manager Ned Yost
really likes what he's seen from Getz at the plate, so expect him to stay atop of the currently potent Kansas City Royals offense.
- 3B, Kansas City Royals (1% owned)
A big reason for the Royals' surprising offense thus far is the offensive production from the bottom of the batting order. Journeyman third baseman Wilson Betemit is only keeping the hot corner warm for prospect Mike Moustakas, but he should be utilized in AL-only leagues while he is getting everyday at-bats. Though he is a career .267 hitter, Betemit managed a 13 home runs and a .297 average in 276 at-bats with the Royals in 2010. One shouldn't expect him to sustain the lofty batting average he has now, but his home run numbers should climb as he keeps getting regular at-bats for KC.
- OF, Toronto Blue Jays (1% owned)
With Toronto outfielder Corey Patterson ready to come off of the disabled list just as Rajai Davis
was being placed on, it was easy for manager John Farrell
to insert Patterson right into the lineup as the team's starting centerfielder. Patterson is now being given a shot in the second spot of the batting order behind new leadoff man Yunel Escobar. The former Oriole is a speed threat with a little pop and has already hit a home run and a stolen a base in his first series off of the disabled list, but he'll likely hurt your fantasy team's batting average in the long run. If he stays in the two hole, however, your team should be able to absorb the hit in batting average in exchange for all the counting stats (runs, RBI, homers, steals) that Patterson will collect.
- SP/RP, Texas Rangers (32% owned)NL-Only Players
The switch from a reliever to starter worked well for Texas lefty C.J. Wilson
in 2010, and Alexi Ogando, the Rangers, and fantasy owners are all hoping for the same results for Alexi in 2011. Last year out of the bullpen, Ogando was very effective and posted a 1.31 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 41.2 innings pitched. So far this season, he has not allowed a run in two starts against Seattle and Detroit and has notched eight strikeouts in 13.1 innings of work. After starting only three games in his minor league career, an innings limit or arm fatigue may eventually force
the Dominican native from the rotation, but his strikeout rate should increase and he's a great short-term option for fantasy teams in need of a starter.
Tony Gwynn Jr.
- OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (1% owned)
Platooning in left field with Marcus Thames
and Xavier Paul, Tony Gwynn Jr. has not been getting many everyday at-bats early this season, but with shortstop Rafael Furcal
landing on the disabled list, the Dodgers need a leadoff man and
Gwynn will probably fill the role. Gwynn had the worst offensive season
of his career by hitting .204 in 2010, but Tony still managed to steal 17 bases in 289 at-bats. Over his first 20 at-bats of 2011, he has a
.350 batting average and three stolen bases, and he is a very cheap
option for stolen bases as a fourth or fifth outfielder on your NL-only
- C, Houston Astros (1% owned)
In 2008, Baseball America
ranked J.R. Towles as the top overall prospect in the Houston Astros organization. Since
then, he has struggled greatly at the major league level and entered 2011
with a .189 career batting average and eight home runs in 281 at-bats.
Now a post-hype prospect with the opportunity to play due to an injury to Houston catcher Jason Castro, Towles' early-season numbers suggest that he's figuring out big league pitching. J.R. is sharing time with Humberto Quintero
at the moment, but if he stays hot at the plate he will earn the majority of the at-bats as Houston's backstop.
- 2B/3B/SS/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (4% owned)
With the injury to Rafael Furcal, utility man Jamey Carroll has taken over the starting shortstop duties for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Carroll's resume at the plate is not spectacular, but with the shortstop position as weak as it is, he is a solid option that shouldn't hurt your team batting average and he has an opportunity to collect a few counting stats while he is in the lineup. In 351 at-bats with the Dodgers last season, Carroll was an offensive asset with 12 stolen bases and a .291 average. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly
doesn't seem to have a definitive slot for Carroll in the batting order, but it seems logical for him to hit near the bottom, which hurts his run-scoring chances but boosts his opportunities for RBI and steals.
- 1B, Houston Astros (4% owned)
In 25 at-bats since Houston's season-opening series against Phillies pitchers Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt, Brett Wallace has hit .320 with a home run, 5 RBI, and a 1.33 walk to strikeout ratio (BB/K). The Astros are Wallace's fourth major league organization and he sometimes struggles making contact, but he is still only 24 years old and has legitimate 20 home run power. He should stay in the middle of Houston's batting order for the rest of the season and has a chance to reach that total.
- RP, St. Louis Cardinals (13% owned)
With the early-season struggles of St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin, converted catcher and eighth inning hurler Jason Motte should start being picked up in all NL-only leagues. Motte is hard thrower whose pitch selection includes a 96 mile-per-hour four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, and a cutter. He struggled this spring while trying to develop a sinker and dropping his arm angle to get more movement on the ball, but he's allowed only four hits in his first six innings pitched this season. If Franklin's struggles continue, Motte should be the first to get a chance in the ninth inning.