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 after the first month of the fantasy campaign:
* Owned percentages via Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
Bud Norris is striking out 10.9 hitters per nine innings (K/9) over his first six starts in 2011. Even better, he has managed to limit his walks to three per nine innings (BB/9). Prior to this season, Norris was more of a spot start for fantasy owners, usually being added for a start here and there against a weak opponent. With his walks down and strikeouts holding at his career average, Norris is finally worth adding to rosters on a full-time basis. Despite probably not winning more than ten games this season, his drop in free passes and his ability to strike hitters out is worth the spot on your team, so hurry up and add him while you can, as this may be your last opportunity.
- SP/RP, San Diego Padres (37% owned)
If your fantasy team is weak at the corner infield position, Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak can provide some relief. The prized prospect exchanged in the Cliff Lee
trade last season finally seems to be hitting his groove at the big league level. His early season drop in strikeouts and increased walk rate is giving hope that he's finally adjusted to major league pitching. Over his last ten games, he's hitting .308/.372/.590 (average, on-base, slugging) with three home runs and 13 RBI. Calling Safeco Field home usually won't do your power numbers any favors, but Smoak's power has translated well, as he's posted a 1.030 OPS at home this year.
Wilson Betemit is making a case for ownership in mixed leagues mostly because a lot of fantasy owners are searching for a third baseman to fill injury voids. The former Atlanta Braves prospect currently has third base eligibility, but with a few more starts he could also snag first base. He's a career .269 hitter that is currently hitting .325, likely due to his unsustainable .419 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), but he remains a regular contributor for a surprising Royals team. His strikeouts and lack of power production will keep him off of many fantasy rosters, but he can help at the corners and owners should try and ride out his current hot streak.
- RP, St. Louis Cardinals (15% owned)
After Ryan Franklin
tanked during his ninth inning opportunities, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa turned to Mitchell Boggs
, Fernando Salas
, and rookie Eduardo Sanchez. Despite allowing a late-inning home run to Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton
earlier this week, Sanchez appears to be the favorite, but right now it's anybody's guess who closes out games. In limited innings this season, Sanchez has posted 15.1 K/9 while recording two saves, and he's worked as a closer throughout his minor league career. If your team is looking for cheap saves, Sanchez is worth an add.
- RP/SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (16% owned)
The Dodgers are finally looking into a possible health reason for the struggles of closer Jonathan Broxton
, so in the meantime the ninth inning duties will likely fall to Los Angeles' other relievers, and veteran Vicente Padilla appears to be in line for a good share of save opportunities. Hong-Chih Kuo
, recently off the disabled list, still looks rusty and not yet capable of being the top-notch reliever he was in 2011, and the Dodgers other bullpen options of Mike MacDougal
, Blake Hawksworth
, and a likely-to-be-recalled Kenley Jansen
don't appear ready to steal the job. It's quite possible that Kuo or Jansen will lock down the ninth inning role at some point, but until that happens Padilla is worth a pickup for any fantasy roster trying to scoop up some saves.
With Mat Latos
on the disabled list to start the season, the Padres tagged Tim Stauffer as their opening day starter. During his first three starts, Stauffer was less than impressive, allowing eight earned runs over 15 innings and striking out a total of seven hitters. Despite a rough start to the season, he's turned things around over his last three starts against the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing a total of four earned runs and striking out 18 batters in 19 2/3 innings. Stauffer is ground ball pitcher (47.1 % for his career, 55.7% in 2011), so keeping the ball on the ground is a key to his success, given he doesn't overpower hitters. He's a nice addition for owners looking for help in the WHIP and ERA departments, especially if he's pitching in Petco Park.
- OF, Philadelphia Phillies (18% owned)
Philadelphia Phillies rookie outfielder Domonic Brown has missed the entire season thus far due to an hand injury, but he recently returned to Triple-A after a successful rehabilitation. Brown is regarded as a top prospect who is capable of producing solid numbers, but with an unknown big league return date, he's not a "must have" guy right now. However, given the recent hitting slumps of Raul Ibanez
and Ben Francisco
, Brown could return after a successful string of minor league games. Owners should monitor the situation moving forward.
Cardinals outfielder Allen Craig is typically used as the team's fourth outfielder, but with injuries to infielders David Freese
and Nick Punto, he's receiving an extended look at third base. After Freese's injury, Craig has started at third base twice and has batted second in the St. Louis lineup. He's likely the favorite to see most of the playing time at third and should acquire third base eligibility by the weekend, but given Tony La Russa's managerial madness, anything could happen. Craig hit .320/.389/.549 with 14 home runs last season with Triple-A Memphis and was a proven hitter in the minor leagues, so he could thrive with regular playing time. Craig isn't a flashy option at third base for owners and is worth owning in NL-only leagues, but deep mixed league owners should take notice too.
The month of May belongs to Luke Scott of the Orioles. In his seven-year career, Scott is a .305/.370/.628 hitter with 24 home runs and an OPS of .998 in May. Over the past two full seasons, Scott has averaged 26 total home runs and currently has four homers in his past seven games. The problem for fantasy owners is that Scott is too streaky from month to month and strikes out too much. Regardless, based on his career numbers during the month of May, there is no better time to have Luke Scott on your roster.