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.
Up-and-down veteran Wily Mo Pena
leads the list of low-risk, potential high-reward players for this week's Under the Radar.
Whether you're seeking injury replacements or overhauling your entire roster, this mix of players has you covered.
* Owned percentages via Yahoo!
- 3B/OF, Chicago White Sox (4% owned)
22-year-old Cuban native Dayan Viciedo is having a solid year for the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, the Charlotte Knights. In his major league call-up last season, Viciedo posted a triple-slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .308/.321/.519 in 104 at-bats while playing third and first base for the White Sox. This year, the Sox started Viciedo back at Triple-A so he could learn how to play in the outfield, spending most of his time in right field. His bat is major league-ready, and with the White Sox looking for an offensive spark, there have been rumors that Dayan will be recalled to Chicago in the very near future. If you have a bench spot available, it would be smart to pick Viciedo up a little early and stash him now, instead of paying a premium for him after the call-up.
- OF, Boston Red Sox (0% owned)
- OF, Oakland Athletics (8% owned)Since manager Bob Melvin took over in Oakland, outfielder and designated hitter Hideki Matsui has seen a boost in fantasy value because of his new spot in the batting order. After initially hitting third in the lineup after the manager switch, it looks like Melvin will let Matsui settle in as the team's new cleanup hitter. Under previous manager Bob Geren, Matsui was batting primarily fifth or lower in the batting order, minimizing his RBI opportunities. No matter how weak an offense, any hitter consistently hitting in the three or four spot of a lineup should be owned, especially in an unmixed league. Matsui isn't the hitter he was when earning the nickname "Godzilla" during his Yankee years, but since June 14th he has hit .316 (6-19) with two home runs and five RBI and could be much better from here on out.
- SP, New York Yankees (8% owned)
Righthanded pitcher Ivan Nova has been a bright spot in a banged-up and somewhat struggling Yankees rotation, and his 2011 stats deserve some fantasy attention. He has more quality starts than not, (eight in 14 outings) and a season ERA of 4.13, all while pitching in the difficult AL East- not too bad for a rookie. Nova's only downside this year is a low rate of 4.91 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (K/9), but over his last three starts he has posted a more respectable 6.68 K/9. If he can maintain that higher strikeout rate while pitching for a team that has one of the major league's best offenses, his stock will only rise between now and the end of the season.
Due to Boston leftfielder Carl Crawford's hamstring injury and subsequent trip to the disabled list, 24 year-old Josh Reddick has become the lefthanded-hitting half of Boston's current left field platoon. Once interleague play concludes this week, Reddick should be playing every time the Red Sox face a righthanded pitcher. Reddick's playing time will vanish once Crawford returns from the DL, but since the Red Sox are not hurting for offense in his absence and hamstring injuries can always use a few extra days to recover, Boston will probably not rush Crawford back. If this is the case, then Reddick is worth a pickup for the at-bats he is getting in the high-scoring Boston offense.
Wily Mo Pena
- OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (0% owned)
There has never been a question about veteran outfielder Wily Mo Pena's ability to hit home runs. Rather, it has been his lack of other skills at the plate, along with an alleged bad attitude,
that has kept him out of the major leagues for large parts of his professional career. Furthermore, instead of being a "three true outcome"
hitter (either hitting a home run, striking out, or walking), throughout his career Pena has been more of a "two true outcome" hitter, either hitting a home run or
striking out. However, while playing in Triple-A Reno this year, he has improved his plate discipline while continuing to hit for power, and is carrying a
triple-slash line of .363/.439/.726 with 21 home runs and 63
RBI in 63 games. He may initally lose playing time once the current stretch of interleague play is over, but if he can bring his 2011 minor league success to the plate in
Arizona, the Diamondbacks should be able to find a spot
- OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (1% owned)
Outfielder Xavier Paul came to the Pirates from the crowded Los Angeles Dodgers outfield just a couple of weeks after the start of the 2011 major league season and, in 101 at-bats with Pittsburgh, he has posted a .267 batting average with three triples and nine stolen bases. Paul's improved performance has led to an increase in playing time, which is why NL-only fantasy owners should take notice and pick him up as a cheap source of steals. He won't become an everyday player without an injury to a starting Pirates outfielder, but if he continues to perform like he has over the past week (batting .296 with one home run and two stolen bases) he will force his way into the lineup more consistently.
- 2B/SS, Houston Astros (4% owned)
When getting at-bats, veteran infielder Jeff Keppinger has always been a must-own player in NL-only leagues and, for the foreseeable future, he will be Houston's starting second baseman. Since coming off the disabled list on May 27, Keppinger consistently hit second in Houston's lineup, but since outfielder Hunter Pence
was forced to the bench with a sore elbow, he has been hitting in the third spot of the order and right in front of power hitter Carlos Lee
. Keppinger won't hit many home runs, but he should be able to contribute to RBI and run totals while maintaining a batting average right around .300, and his multi-position eligibility makes him a very valuable fantasy player.
- SP, Washington Nationals (6% owned)
After getting off to relatively a slow start this season, Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan has turned things around in the month of June. Lannan finished Wednesday night against the Mariners with an ERA of 3.40, a full run lower than the 4.40 ERA he had at the beginning of this month. There are signs that Lannan is not a sure thing, the biggest being his 13 to 10 strikeout to walk (K/BB) ratio this month, but in fantasy sometimes it's smart to ride the hot hand- especially when the hot hand has two starts next week against the Angels (in Los Angeles) and the Pirates (back in Washington D.C.).