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 list of players includes a veteran duo in San Diego, two rookies from the American League Central, and a reliever in Los Angeles who may find save opportunities going forward.
* Owned percentages via Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
- OF, Texas Rangers (1% owned)
Veteran outfielder Endy Chavez is the latest Texas Ranger to be plugged into the team's depleted outfield, which now has all three starters (Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Julio Borbon) on the disabled list. The 33 year-old Chavez was promoted from triple-A Round Rock to take Borbon's place and, after going hitless in his first two games as the Rangers' new leadoff hitter, Chavez has collected multiple hits in his last three games. The Venezuelan native stole a career-high 32 bases for the Montreal Expos in 2004 and has been a solid base-stealing threat while bouncing between the major and high minor leagues throughout the last decade. Chavez was hitting .305 with 10 stolen bases (6 caught stealing) through 30 games at Round Rock before his promotion, and he could be a solid source of steals and runs at the top of the potent Texas lineup until the regulars return.
- RP, Seattle Mariners (6% owned)
While the Mariners awaited the return of regular closer David Aardsma
, reliever Brandon League
was filling in admirably for the team... until last week. League suffered through a horrid patch of late-inning collapses, taking four losses and blowing three saves. League's ERA ballooned from 2.08 to 7.31 in just four outings, and with Aardsma still not close to a return after experiencing elbow discomfort while rehabbing his injury, some closing duties may fall to veteran righthander Jamey Wright. Wright has worked as a starter throughout most of his big league career but has found sporadic success in the bullpen in the last few seasons. He's been one of the Mariners' best relievers in 2011 and, while not a big strikeout pitcher, he could be a valuable option for a fantasy owner desperately chasing saves right now.
While his major league debut wasn't spectacular, Royals prospect Daniel Duffy is worthy of fantasy attention in some leagues and shouldn't be ignored. Duffy posted a 2.59 ERA and 402 strikeouts in 344 career minor league innings, and he possesses command and an understanding of hitters well beyond his 22 years of age. He flashed signs of dominance in his four-inning debut on Wednesday, though he certainly walked too many hitters and was understandably removed after 95 pitches. He'll likely make strides in his upcoming big league starts and, while risky, could provide a boost for a fantasy team in need of starting pitching help.Andy Dirks
- OF, Detroit Tigers (1% owned)
A right ankle injury to Magglio Ordonez
has opened the big league door for 25 year-old Andy Dirks, who was promoted to Detroit and made his major league debut this past week. Dirks was an eighth-round pick out of Wichita State in 2008 and has displayed solid contact and baserunning skills throughout his minor league career, but in 2010 he also begin hitting for power. According to Baseball America, Dirks was Detroit's 11th best prospect entering 2011 and, after hitting a surprising 15 home runs in 120 total minor league games last year, he smacked 6 dingers in 34 games for AAA Toledo before his callup. He's a solid defensive outfielder and, with 22 minor league steals (4 caught) in 2010 and 10 swipes (2 caught) for Toledo this season, he could help a fantasy team in need of speed numbers. The power has been a surprise and he probably shouldn't be counted on for home run stats, but overall Dirks is a useful mid-tier outfield prospect and a solid fantasy option, depending on an owner's needs.
- OF, San Diego Padres (13% owned)
Former all-star Ryan Ludwick has suffered through several bouts of mediocrity since his dynamic 37 home run season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008. Furthermore, he started extremely slow in 2011 with his current team, the San Diego Padres, and many fantasy owners who had moderate expectations for a 20-plus home run season from the veteran outfielder found themselves dropping him in the opening month of the year. However, Ludwick has been one of the league's hottest power hitters lately, hitting very well in the month of May. He tallied his fourth home run in his last seven games on Wednesday night and is proving to be a very valuable asset for savvy fantasy owners lately. He may not reach the exorbitant power numbers he hit in his best season, but he is a streaky hitter than can provide solid numbers in the here and now.
- OF, Washington Nationals (5% owned)
A 30 year-old journeyman outfielder may not seem like the ideal candidate to help a fantasy roster, but Nationals outfielder Laynce NIx has been asserting himself recently and is deserving of some fantasy attention. Nix has displayed streaks of power throughout his career, but in 2011 he has been remarkably consistent and has managed to steal playing time away from Washington prospect Mike Morse
(and others) along the way. His 5 home runs in just 85 at-bats is commendable and, while playing time isn't a certain thing, he makes for a valuable pickup for a fantasy team in need of some temporary hitting help.
- 1B/OF, San Diego Padres (4% owned)
Like his teammate Ryan Ludwick, first baseman Brad Hawpe is a former all-star who has fallen into relative obscurity as a member of the Padres' usually dismal offensive lineup. However, Hawpe has gotten fairly hot with the bat lately and, with a regular spot near the middle of the Padres batting order, he can provide a little punch for a fantasy team in need of a boost. After hitting an awful .161 in April, Hawpe has hit .383 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI in May and could be on his way back to providing another helpful 20 home run year for fantasy owners. He won't likely pound out another all-star season, but if the Padres offense can climb back near the league average, Hawpe should have plenty of opportunities to try to prove his worth as a solid RBI provider again.Matt Guerrier
- RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (9% owned)
An elbow injury to replacement closer Vicente Padilla
yet again opened the revolving ninth inning door for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and manager Don Mattingly turned to 32 year-old reliever Matt Guerrier for the save on May 17th. While Guerrier's hold on the closer position in Los Angeles in anything but secure, he seems to have a slight lead over veteran Mike MacDougal
and youngster Kenley Jansen
, and in Padilla's absence it's reasonable to guess that the end-game duties will fall to Guerrier. Teams chasing saves should take notice and add Guerrier as soon as they can, but they should also monitor the situation in L.A. and be prepared to move on to the next guy if a change is made. Padilla's injury woes aren't considered serious, but he won't shoulder a heavy workload and Guerrier seems to be the man in line to fill in for him as necessary.