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's crop of players includes a few youngsters, a few journeymen, and a look at some Houston Astros who may be able to help out your fantasy team.
* Owned percentages via Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
- SP, Cleveland Indians (1% owned)
Cleveland pitching prospect Alex White finally made his major league debut this week, and the 22 year-old righthander looked pretty good in his six-inning debut against the Detroit Tigers. White allowed a pair of home runs, but no other runners crossed the plate in his no decision effort. The North Carolina native has put up very impressive numbers since being the 15th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft and has a 2.37 ERA in 174.1 minor league innings, including a 1.90 mark with 28 strikeouts in 23.2 innings (4 starts) for Triple-A Columbus this year. He hasn't typically been a very high-strikeout hurler, averaging just 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) in his minor league career, but White could be an emerging star on a surprising Cleveland team this year.
- OF/1B, Oakland Athletics (1% owned)
- 3B, Cleveland Indians (15% owned)Also riding the wave of Cleveland's hot start is journeyman third baseman Jack Hannahan, a 30 year-old who has settled in nicely for the Indians. Hannahan's major league experiences prior to 2011 were unimpressive (with an average/on-base/slugging line of .224/.311/.347) but he's heated up in the last two weeks and has passable power numbers and a solid batting average. Hannahan homered on opening day and looked like a force early on, but leveled off to a .220 batting average on April 17th. Since then, however, Hannahan has notched a hit in 10 of 11 games, with 2 home runs and 8 RBI, pulling his season average up near .280. There isn't much to go on, but even at the bottom of the Cleveland batting order, Hannahan is getting involved in the offense. His minor league numbers suggest he could be good for 15 to 18 home runs over a full season and a decent batting average.
- 1B, Tampa Bay Rays (1% owned)
Former Angels prospect Casey Kotchman mostly washed out as a major league regular, but he's hit very well in his opportunities for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 and can't be ignored in fantasy leagues anymore. Though he hits few home runs for a first baseman or designated hitter, Kotchman has shown flashes of good contact and gap-to-gap run-producing power, and he's swinging a surprisingly live bat for the Rays. With corner infielder Dan Johnson
struggling to make solid contact, Kotchman could continue to get plenty of time at first base for Tampa, and if his bat keeps him in the lineup, he should get RBI opportunities. It's possible Kotchman and Johnson will settle into a strict platoon, but until Johnson gets his batting average above .150, Casey should be at the bat.
While the Oakland Athletics certainly aren't one of baseball's more potent lineups, there is still a great deal of fantasy value in their number three hitter, and for the moment that hitter is Conor Jackson. Jackson has struggled with injuries the last few years, but he was a valuable hitter in Arizona and his ability to play around the diamond makes him worth fantasy consideration. He won't wow anyone with any of his offensive stats, but he notched a .300 average and 75 RBI in 2008, his last full season of major league baseball. Depending on who Oakland is facing on the mound, he could tally quite a few RBI before season's end.Scott Sizemore
- 2B, Detroit Tigers (5% owned)
He may have fizzled in his opportunity as Detroit's starting second baseman in 2010, but 26 year-old infielder Scott Sizemore is worthy of fantasy baseball attention after his recent callup to replace struggling second baseman Will Rhymes
. Toledo must've been full of dry leaves, because Sizemore was straight-up raking prior to his promotion from the Triple-A Mud Hens, hitting .408 with a .495 on-base percentage and a .605 slugging percentage in 92 plate appearances. He finished his 2009 minor league campaign with 17 total home runs and 21 total steals, and that gives a pretty good sense of what Sizemore's ceiling may be in a full season as a Tiger. The up-and-comer does a bit of everything and is swinging a very hot bat after collecting 3 hits in his season debut.
- SP, Philadelphia Phillies (4% owned)
After impressive work in just 13 innings for the Phillies last season, pitching prospect Vance Worley appears that he'll finally be given a legitimate shot at Philadelphia's number five rotation spot behind Roy Halladay
, Cliff Lee
, Roy Oswalt
, and Cole Hamels
. He's currently filling in for number five starter Joe Blanton
, but Blanton's struggles prior to his trip to the disabled list and Worley's strong performance as a big leaguer could mean the 23 year-old California native will have the job even after Blanton recovers. He's notched wins in both of his starts this season and has allowed just 6 hits in 12 innings with the Phillies thus far.Nyjer Morgan
- OF, Milwaukee Brewers (12% owned)
Since joining the Brewers, outfielder Nyjer Morgan was well on his way to becoming an fan favorite for his hustle and a couple of notable run-scoring collisions with opposing catchers, but his first month with the club was shortened via a right thigh bruise and a trip to the disabled list. Prior to his injury, Morgan had been splitting time with all-glove, no-bat centerfielder Carlos Gomez
, but Gomez's inability to hit well and secure his job means that the now-healthy Morgan could be well on his way to completely usurping Gomez and becoming a regular for Milwaukee. When starting, Morgan typically hits in the number two spot behind Rickie Weeks
and ahead of sluggers Ryan Braun
and Prince Fielder
, so regular playing time could mean lots of runs scored for the former Pittsburgh prospect. This and Milwaukee's new commitment to aggression on the bases could lead to big numbers for Morgan.
- SS, Houston Astros (2% owned)
Recently off the disabled list, infielder Clint Barmes could bring some much needed offense to the Houston Astros.
Barmes hit 23 home runs as recently as 2009 and, despite problems with slumps and injuries since then, is still capable of notching good power numbers for any fantasy squad. Furthermore, he can chip in double-digit steals over a full season (25 total in 2008 and 2009). His batting average numbers have not been good throughout most of his career, as shown by his .254 career mark, but at a very weak offensive position, five months of production from Barmes could be very helpful.Jason Bourgeois
- OF, Houston Astros (3%
At the age of 29, outfielder Jason Bourgeois isn't much of a major league prospect, but the Astros outfielder is using his bat and his speed to work his way into more and more games for the Houston Astros, and with regular leftfielder Carlos Lee
suffering from bruised ribs, Bourgeois looks like an excellent fantasy play in the next week (or beyond). He doesn't provide anything in the way of home run power, but Bourgeois already has nine stolen bases in eleven attempts this year and has posted a .386 batting average so far. His numbers will settle down, of course, but he has repeatedly hit around .300 as a minor leaguer and is adept at putting the ball in play. A fantasy club in need of stolen bases should be enlisting him immediately.
- RP, Houston Astros (3% owned)
Yet another Houston Astro finishes out this week's article, as reliever Mark Melancon gets a mention. Houston's regular closer, Brandon Lyon, has fallen beneath his normal level of mediocrity and into downright awfulness, as he blew yet another save (his fourth in eight chances) and failed to record an out on any of the five hitters he faced on Wednesday afternoon. There isn't a clear-cut backup closer option for Houston, but Melancon has been the Astros' most consistent reliever this season and the 26 year-old former Yankee appears to be the first in line behind Lyon. At the time of publication, this is a bit of a speculative pick, but if Melancon is available in your league and you own Lyon or are just in need of saves, he should be added to your roster as soon as possible.