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 six weeks or so of the fantasy campaign:
* Owned percentages via Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
After posting one of the most surprising comeback seasons in baseball history last year, many fantasy owners invested in Colby Lewis for a reprise in 2011. But Lewis, who notched 196 strikeouts and a 3.72 ERA in 2010, started this year off with a 1-3 record and a 6.95 ERA in his first four starts, plus just 14 strikeouts in 22 innings. His ownership percentage looks deceivingly high, but a lot of his initial fantasy owners in more active and serious leagues dumped him after those first four games (or soon thereafter). In three games since then, Lewis has gone 2-1 with just 6 runs allowed and 17 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. He's lowered his season ERA to 4.57 and, despite oddly recording zero strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings in his last outing, appears to be back on track. The Cobra helped a lot of fantasy owners last year, and he could do the same from here on out in 2011.
Fresh off of a mention in last week's Weekly Linkage piece
, Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton is continuing to rebound nicely from a disastrous 2010 season. His most recent official start, a 7 2/3 inning, 7 hit, 5 strikeout victory over the Astros, lowered his 2011 season ERA to 3.13 and brought his season record to 4-1. That win-loss mark is a stark improvement from his 11-29 career record prior to 2011. A shift in Morton's arm slot has boosted his effectiveness, and while he still sometimes struggles with command and allows too many walks, he could continue to surprise and might be a fantasy steal for a savvy owner willing to take a chance.
Veteran starting pitchers resurrecting their careers is a pretty common thing this season (see Aaron Harang
), but perhaps none is more surprising than the performance of Freddy Garcia's dominance for the New York Yankees. Not only has Garcia posted a 2.32 ERA in his 5 starts this season (he allowed a run in an inning of relief), but he's also struck out 25 hitters in 30 innings over those starts. He has just two wins and has gone past 6 innings just once, but the quality of his work has surpassed all expectations. He'll likely level off, but with the Yankees offense backing him up, Garcia could be a solid fantasy option.
The big news around the fantasy world this past weekend was Kansas City's recall of super-prospect first baseman Eric Hosmer, who replaces slumping Kila Ka'aihue
as the Royals' starting first baseman. Hosmer was dominating triple-A pitching (.439/.525/.582 AVG/OBP/SLG in 118 plate appearances) this season and hit a combined 20 home runs and .338 batting average in the minors last year. Hosmer is not the Royals' top hitting prospect, as that distinction falls to third baseman Mike Moustakas
, but he should be a big part of the Kansas City lineup and is already off to a solid start. Hosmer has a keen batting eye and some power, but is unknown to many baseball fans. First base is a deep position, but if nothing else, he could be a valuable trade chip for another owner who is enthralled at the idea of having young hitting talent on his roster. He's gone in a lot of leagues, but if he's still out there, go get him.
Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo is by no means a flashy player, but the veteran infielder has reached double-digit home runs each of the last two years and has kept his batting average around .300 for most of his 2011 season. He does a bit of everything except steal many bases, and he can be a helpful injury substitution or a fill-in for inactive players on Mondays and Thursdays. Due to his time in the middle infield for the Royals in 2010, he also has second base eligibility in a lot of fantasy leagues, adding to his fantasy value.
Ibanez - OF, Philadelphia Phillies (32% owned)
In his first year with the Phillies back in 2009, outfielder Raul Ibanez hit .272 and smacked a superb 34 home runs. Then, despite a somewhat difficult start to his 2010 campaign, he still managed a .275 average with 16 home runs and 83 RBI by the end of that season. In 2011, he was off to an absolutely horrendous start that saw him hitting .161 with 1 home run and 10 RBI at the end of April, but Ibanez has finally gotten rolling in May and has recovered to a .232 average by hitting .395 in 10 games thus far, including 6 multi-hit games, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI. He won't rebound to the 34 homer dynamo he was back in 2009, but above-average power numbers and a passable batting average are a strong possibility. Almost all of the fantasy owners who drafted him to start the 2011 season have dropped him since, so it's wise to check if he's still out there. It's possible that outfield prospect Domonic Brown
may be promoted soon and cut into Ibanez's playing time, but if Raul keeps hitting, it's more likely that Ben Francisco
will be benched for the rookie.
- OF, Texas Rangers (8% owned)
Texas outfielder Julio Borbon burst on the major league stage in 2009 by hitting .312 and stealing 19 bases (with just 4 times caught) in just 46 games for the Texas Rangers. In 2010, he started the year very slowly but rebounded to hit .276, though he stole just 15 bases and was caught stealing 7 times. This season, Borbon again started slowly by hitting just .232 with 2 stolen bases in April, but he has hit much better in May, stringing together a 10-game hitting streak while hitting .367 and already notching 4 stolen bases this month. He doesn't draw many walks or hit for much power, but Borbon is an above-average contact hitter and speedster. The Josh Hamilton
injury increased regular playing time for both he and outfielder David Murphy
, and Borbon's defensive abilities in center field will likely get him plenty of at-bats throughout the rest of the year. He can be a valuable asset for a fantasy team in need of steals and some hits.
- OF, Los Angeles Angels (27% owned)
The Angels failed to make any major off-season free agent signings, but the trade for outfielder Vernon Wells
was the one move that many speculated would help rejuvenate the team's offense. Wells has struggled and then got injured, and veteran first base slugger Kendrys Morales
has missed a lot of time and won't return in 2011, but the Angels have fared pretty well in 2011 due to the contributions of young hitters like centerfielder Peter Bourjos. Bourjos' outfield defense has earned him regular playing time, but he's also proven himself to be a capable batsman, as his 2011 season average is holding around .290. Bourjos isn't a heavy hitter, but he's flashed double-digit home run power in the minor leagues. However, Bourjos' base-stealing skills have yet to manifest much this year, which is something that should improve as the season rolls on. He could be a key component in the Angels offense and a .290 average with a handful of home runs and around 25 stolen bases isn't unlikely. He's still unowned in a good number of fantasy leagues and could help many teams looking to fill the average or steals categories.Mark Trumbo
- 1B - Los Angeles Angels (19% owned)
Angels rookie Mark Trumbo was featured in our AL/NL Under the Radar back on April 20th
, but his continuing strong play and the expected increase in playing time earns him a spot here this week. Like Bourjos, Trumbo has picked up the slack of some of the Angels struggling or injured veterans, and with the news that starting first baseman Kendrys Morales
will require another ankle surgery and won't return in 2011, Trumbo becomes a vital cog in the Angels' offensive machine. Baseball America
ranked Trumbo as the club's number nine prospect entering this season, and the 25 year-old should be able to make his mark with his new-found job stability. He'll likely see most of the time at first base and perhaps some occasional work in the corner outfield spots. Trumbo has already shown solid power production this year and, after tying for the minor league lead with 36 home runs in 2010, the 2011 possibilities for this power hitter look very good for fantasy owners.