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.
After last week's list of fresh major league call-ups on the waiver wire, we are back to a more slow and steady set of veteran players to look at this week. Whether you're seeking injury replacements or overhauling your entire roster, this mix of players has you covered.
* Owned percentages via Yahoo!
- SS, Oakland Athletics (5% owned)
Since new manager Bob Melvin
took over in Oakland, shortstop Cliff Pennington has been regularly in the second spot of the batting order and it has created a noticeable increase in his fantasy value. Granted, Oakland is not an offensive juggernaut, but hitting in front of Hideki Matsui
or Ryan Sweeney
will allow Pennington to see better pitches to hit than he did when he was hitting at the bottom of the lineup, and he will score a lot more runs once he reaches base. His batting average will not hurt you (his career mark is .259) and he should be a good source for another 20 stolen bases before the year is over.
- 2B/SS, Minnesota Twins (16% owned)
- C, Boston Red Sox (12% owned)While making his way through the minor league systems of the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was known as a solid defender who could potentially be an offensive threat in the major leagues. Unfortunately, when given the chance, "Salty" was never able to perform or live up to that initial potential, and for years he toiled in mediocrity. Now, the Braves' 2003 first round pick has found a home in Boston, where the lineup does not need him to be a superstar with the bat. After another shaky start at the plate this season, he has settled in nicely by hitting .357 in June, with a very good on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.026. Saltalamacchia will have ample opportunity to drive in runs anywhere in Boston's lineup and could finish the year with 20 home runs.
- SP, Cleveland Indians (8% owned)
Before the season even started, Cleveland pitcher Carlos Carrasco was touted by Baseball Press
as a solid AL-only starting pitcher option. Recently, he has fulfilled that prediction and is performing to the potential he showed in the second half of the 2010 season. Over his last five starts, Carrasco has a 4-1 win-loss record with a 2.97 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 33.1 innings pitched. Most promising, though, is that he has allowed zero earned runs and notched 13 strikeouts in his last 15.1 innings. The former Phillies prospect is still very young (he turned 24 in March) and will have a rough start here and there, but he should have more good starts than bad from this point on in the season and has value in all AL-only leagues, as well as some mixed leagues.
Twenty-six year-old Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka played only six games for the Minnesota Twins this season before being placed on the disabled list with a broken fibula, an injury that occurred as he was turning a double play in April. Nishioka rejoined the Twins this week and should take over as the everyday shortstop, switching from his original position of second base. He recently hit for a .400 batting average (8-20) during his minor league rehab assignment and should improve on his current .208 MLB batting average. Nishioka's real fantasy value this year should be on the basepaths, as he won the Nippon Professional Baseball League's stolen base title twice before coming stateside.
Jordan Schafer - OF, Atlanta Braves (4% owned)
Two seasons ago, Atlanta outfielder Jordan Schafer made a memorable major league debut, hitting a game-winning home run to defeat division rival Philadelphia in early April. Unfortunately, Schafer's rookie season was cut short by a wrist injury, even though he tried to play through it and remain in the majors. In 2011 (two years later), he was called up to take the the roster spot of injured outfielder Nate McLouth
and has since become a great source for stolen bases and runs. Schafer currently has 7 steals in 22 games and is steadily raising his batting average, which should settle in the .260 range by season's end. Even after McLouth returns, Schafer's current level of play indicates that there is a very good chance that he will stay at the major league level, getting three or four starts a week.
- SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (7% owned)
This season, Pittsburgh pitcher Paul Maholm has gone from a fantasy rotation fill-in to a guy you should pick up as a regular on your fantasy staff. Outside of his 3-7 win-loss record, he currently has a very solid stat line for a middle-of-the-rotation fantasy starter. Sporting a 3.12 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, Maholm is ranked as one of the top 20 National League starting pitchers, according Yahoo!'s player rater. His strikeout rate will likely stay around the league average and his win total will be suppressed by the Pirates' inconsistent offense, but pitching late into games with a solid defense behind him will allow Maholm to maintain enough value to be owned in even shallow NL-only leagues, and possibly some mixed leagues.
- 2B, Colorado Rockies (1% owned)
Infielder Chris Nelson, Colorado's ninth overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft, has had a few chances to become the Rockies everyday second baseman but, before this year, he had never really performed well enough to win the job. However, a solid start at Triple-A Colorado Springs this year and a few injury-related holes on the Rockies roster have made it appear that he may have finally secured the job. Nelson is mostly hitting in the second spot of the batting order right now and should score plenty of runs in the high-powered Colorado offense, plus he could also have a chance to drive in a few if Carlos Gonzalez
continues to bat leadoff. There is the chance that Nelson's bat will go cold and he could lose playing time, but as long as he is consistently in the Rockies lineup, he should be on your fantasy roster.
- 2B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals (2% owned)
For fantasy purposes, Skip Schumaker has historically been a high batting average hitter who could contribute a few stolen bases and add a few runs when batting near the top of the Cardinals lineup. Last season, that high average fell to .265 and it left fantasy owners little reason to own the lefthanded hitting second baseman. However, after an early-season trip to the DL and a bad performance in May, it appears that Skip is starting to turn things around at the plate. So far in June, he is hitting .278 and starting to see more consistent playing time. There is a chance that he will be relegated to bench duty when teammate Allen Craig
returns from the disabled list, but until then Schumaker should get plenty of at-bats in the Cardinals lineup and could help a team in need of solid contact hitting in the middle infield.