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Under the Radar - Mixed Leagues
Dan Port | Friday April 22nd, 2011
Travis Hafner is fantasy-relevant again. (Getty)
Travis Hafner is fantasy-relevant again. (Getty)
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.

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

Mitchell Boggs - RP, St. Louis Cardinals (40% owned)
While incumbent Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin has been having a string of ninth inning meltdowns, St. Louis setup man Mitchell Boggs has been quietly carving out a dominant start to his 2011 campaign.  Boggs' success may have finally led to a role promotion, as he scooped up a one inning save in the second game of the Cards' doubleheader on Wednesday.  Boggs is averaging better than a strikeout per inning this year, and he notched 52 in 67.1 innings last season.  He's improved his ERA each season since his major league debut back in 2008, and after working only as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues, a move to the bullpen has cemented him as a solid late inning option.  Jason Motte may eventually supplant Boggs as the closer in St. Louis, but all signs point to the 27 year-old Boggs as the Cardinals' primary save collector starting right now.  He's worth a pickup in all formats.


Jed Lowrie - SS/2B, Boston Red Sox (59% owned)
Health and playing time were big concerns for Red Sox infielder Jed Lowrie entering 2011, but his bat seems to be putting those to rest pretty quickly.  While former AL MVP Dustin Pedroia is the team's everyday second baseman and Marco Scutaro is still in the mix at shortstop, Lowrie has been putting up video game-like numbers in his time at the plate and making it very hard for the club to keep him out of the lineup.  Some cooling off is inevitable, but Lowrie still possesses the ability to hit for average and power and has eligibility at both second base and shortstop in most leagues.  Furthermore, he just turned 27 and could be entering his prime years as a big league hitter.  He's worth a pickup for some middle infield help, but it's wise to check the Baseball Press lineup page on a daily basis to make sure he's getting the start.

Gaby Sanchez - 1B, Florida Marlins (58% owned)
While many fantasy owners may be kicking themselves right now for investing so heavily in struggling Marlins slugger Mike Stanton, those who snagged his teammate Gaby Sanchez in the late rounds or on the waiver wire have been pleasantly surprised.  After a few short stints with the big club in 2008 and 2009, Sanchez finally broke through as a full-time player in 2010 by hitting .273 with 19 home runs and 85 RBI in 151 games.  He hasn't shown much power yet in 2011, but his average is well north of .300 and his minor league numbers suggest he's capable of keeping it there.  He should be good for around 20 home runs again this year, and possibly more, so he makes for a valuable fantasy bench guy and/or a fill-in at the first base, corner infield, or the utility spot, especially for owners who may be dealing with players like Justin Morneau missing playing time.

Travis Hafner - DH, Cleveland Indians (51% owned)
The Cleveland Indians are still leading the AL Central, and a big reason for their success is the resurgence of designated hitter Travis Hafner, who's hitting well over .300 with 4 home runs as of Thursday.  Just a half-decade ago, Hafner was among the best hitters in the league, peaking with a .306 average and 42 home runs in 2006.  Since those years, he's suffered through a myriad of nagging and sustained injuries, but he may finally be healthy and, at the age of 33, primed for a return to something resembling his former success.  A 40 home run season seems out of reach, but a .280 to .290 average with home run numbers pushing 30 doesn't seem far-fetched for Pronk, if he can stay off the disabled list.  He's stuck at the utility spot and hasn't played the field since 2007, but if you need a fill in or just some power, he could be a valuable fantasy piece.

Sergio Santos - RP, Chicago White Sox (18% owned)
The White Sox bullpen has been a bit of a mess this season, as incumbent closer Matt Thornton has suffered through some bad outings and bullpen prospect Chris Sale has had his share of struggles, but the one consistent positive in the 'pen has been righthander Sergio Santos.  Santos was a shortstop prospect with 20 home run power for the Arizona, Toronto, and Minnesota organizations before his inability to hit at higher minor league levels halted his progression.  Upon joining the White Sox organization in 2009, Santos was converted to a relief pitcher and, despite serious issues with walks as a minor league hurler, he logged a very successful rookie campaign for the club last season.  He's continued that success in 2011 by not being scored upon in nine spring training appearances (9.2 innings, 10 strikeouts) and seven regular season outings (9.2 innings, 13 strikeouts).  While manager Ozzie Guillen hasn't yet inserted him as the closer, Santos is making a convincing case for a shot there and makes for a nice speculative grab in mixed leagues.  If nothing else, Santos could provide some useful strikeout numbers, even if he isn't notching saves yet.


Jonathan Herrera - 2B/3B, Colorado Rockies (35% owned)
The first few weeks of the fantasy baseball season are full of surprises, and one of those surprises has been the hot hitting of Colorado infielder Jonathan Herrera, whose offensive numbers and defensive versatility eased the Rockies' decision to demote struggling infielder Ian Stewart to triple-A Colorado Springs.  Herrera started 2011 in a timeshare at second base with Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez, but with Stewart's departure Herrera should see a lot more at-bats because Wigginton and Lopez will be sharing the third base job.  At age 26, Herrera isn't exactly a prospect, but he's had some stretches of success in the minor leagues and profiles as a guy who makes good contact and may hit for a high average with regular playing time (as he's done so far this season).  As a farmhand, he stole as many as 34 bases in a season, but his baserunning instincts are just so-so and 15-20 steals this year seems more reasonable.  His value isn't huge, but he can play multiple spots and certainly help in a couple of categories for a needful fantasy owner.

Alex Gonzalez - SS, Atlanta Braves (35% owned)
Heading into the 2011 fantasy season, shortstop was pretty universally recognized as a weak position, so it's somewhat surprising that more owners didn't latch on to Alex Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves.  Gonzalez posted 23 home runs and 88 RBI between the Blue Jays and Braves in 2010, though his .250 average was less than desirable.  It's reasonable to assume he may not hit those same run-producing numbers in 2011, but with three homers already, he's well on his way to what might be a 20 home run year.  If you need help and can take the hit in batting average, he's worth a look.

Johnny Damon - OF/DH, Tampa Bay Rays (20% owned)
He certainly won't be slugging 24 home runs like he did for the Yankees in 2009, but Johnny Damon is already proving himself to be a solid offensive contributor for his new club the Tampa Bay Rays.  He recently missed several games due to a bruised finger, but Damon returned to action on Thursday and extended his hitting streak to ten games.  His batting average should climb, and he's already notched 3 home runs and 3 steals in the first few weeks of play.  If all goes to plan, Damon should be the Rays' designated hitter for most of the season (especially after the retirement of Manny Ramirez) and can chip in some stolen bases, a bit of home run power, and some runs scored while hitting in then number two spot of the Tampa batting order.
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.