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Under the Radar - AL/NL Only Leagues
Nate Springfield | Thursday July 21st, 2011
Brandon Allen provides immediate home run help. (Icon SMI)
Brandon Allen provides immediate home run help. (Icon SMI)
Each week, Baseball Press provides 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 AL/NL-only waiver wire pickups features a major league hopeful, a couple recent callups and a pitcher that may be back from the dead.  Whether you're seeking injury replacements or overhauling your entire roster, this mix of players has you covered.

* Owned percentages via Yahoo!

AL-Only Players
Desmond Jennings - OF, Tampa Bay Rays (9% owned)
Before Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Sam Fuld, Matt Joyce, and a handful of other outfielders made their way to Tampa Bay this year, there was prospect Desmond Jennings.  As mentioned in an AL/NL Only Under the Radar in late April, after the departure of All-Star Carl Crawford, Jennings seemed to be the answer to the Rays' empty left field spot, but for many reasons (including the presence of the players listed above) a major league recall just has not happened this year.  The 24-year old Alabama native is currently hitting .275 with 12 home runs and 17 stolen bases for Tampa's Triple-A affiliate in Durham and appears to be ready for a recall.  If B.J. Upton is traded, as some rumors have indicated, expect Jennings to immediately get promoted.  If that doesn't happen, it would still be wise to pick up and stash Jennings for his imminent September call-up.

Jason Kipnis - 2B, Cleveland Indians (2% owned)
Infielder Jason Kipnis, another prospect whose promotion to the major leagues is imminent, has spent the last five years methodically working his way through the Indians minor league system.  The Illinois native has had stops at each level and has spent all of 2011 at Triple-A Columbus, hitting .285 with 12 home runs, 12 stolen bases, and an .869 on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) mark.  Cleveland's current second baseman, Orlando Cabrera, had a hot mid-June but has only hit .132 with one run scored, three RBI, and a stolen base in the last two weeks.  The Indians need more production out of that lineup spot to stay in contention, and Kipnis is the obvious answer.

Alex Cobb - SP, Tampa Bay Rays (1% owned)
Pitcher Alex Cobb, a 23-year old rookie righthander, was just recently recalled from Triple-A Durham for his second stint of the season with the Tampa Bay Rays.  He's done well in his time thus far, and through six starts at the major league level the Boston native owns a 3.09 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.  In his last start on Monday against the Yankees, he pitched six innings, allowed one earned run, and struck out three, earning him another start against Kansas City this Sunday.  It appears that the Rays will use a six-man rotation for the immediate future, perhaps until a trade is made or the deadline passes, making Cobb a worthy pickup as a low-end starter in any AL-only format.

Eduardo Nunez - 3B/SS, New York Yankees (7% owned)

With starting third baseman Alex Rodriguez landing on the disabled list following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will be using infielder Eduardo Nunez as the club's primary third baseman.  Nunez, a native of the Dominican Republic, is only 24 years old and has seen a lot of at-bats over the past month while filling in when shortstop Derek Jeter was on the disabled list, but he is not a dominant presence at the plate and has mainly hit out of the ninth spot of the Yankees batting order.  Nunez's fantasy value lies in the amount at-bats he will receive while Rodriguez is on the DL, each of which holds the potential to be driven in by the top of a very good Yankees lineup.


NL-Only Players
Brandon Allen - 1B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (1% owned)
Recent Arizona call-up Brandon Allen has already displayed his power potential this season, hitting two home runs in his first seven at-bats for the big club.  While at Triple-A this year, the first baseman and outfielder impressed with 18 home runs and a 1.006 OPS in 377 plate appearances.  The Texas native didn't do much as a late season call-up the past two seasons, hitting only .222 in 97 at-bats, but he hit five home runs in that span and has shown that he has the ability to hit the long ball at the major league level.  Allen will be the primary first baseman in the desert for the rest of 2011 and should be a good source of home runs, though it comes at the expense of a low batting average.

Jose Altuve - 2B, Houston Astros (0% owned)

The first thing most spectators will notice about infielder Jose Altuve is his compact five-foot 7-inch stature, but do not let his diminutive size deter you from his fantasy value.  This season, the 21-year old Venezuelan started with Houston's High-A affiliate Lancaster, where he hit .408 with five home runs and 19 stolen bases in 213 at-bats and prompted a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi.  While there, he hit .361 with five more home runs and five stolen bases in only 144 at-bats.  Altuve likes to swing the bat and has excellent plate coverage for his size, but discipline may become a problem for him when facing superior pitching in the major leagues.  But unless he struggles to the point where the Astros think he is jeopardizing his future, one can expect him to settle in as the team's everyday second baseman for the rest of 2011.

Michael Martinez - 2B/3B/SS/OF, Philadelphia Phillies (0% owned)

Though not expected to be a big contributor this year, utility player Michael Martinez has seen regular playing time at third base for the Philadelphia Phillies ever since Placido Polanco started missing time in early July.  Polanco was scheduled to come off of the disabled list on July 20th, but his ailing back is not healing as quickly as he or the team expected, delaying his activation.  Martinez will continue to see everyday at-bats until Polanco comes off of the DL, making him a viable option for any NL-only owner with a roster hole.  His multi-position eligibility and a recent increase in stolen bases makes him a very valuable fantasy commodity, even though his other offensive stats are not as impressive as possible waiver wire alternatives.

Dontrelle Willis - SP, Cincinnati Reds (3% owned)
If you are a believer in the mantra "once you show a skill, you own it", then pitcher Dontrelle Willis is an interesting flier as a possible second-half boost to a fantasy pitching staff.  The 2003 National League rookie of the year is getting another chance with the Cincinnati Reds this season and has struck out nine hitters over 10 2/3 innings in his first two starts.  Dontrelle's post-2006 struggles at the major league level were connected to his inability to consistently throw strikes, but in his small 2011 sample size he has a nine-to-five strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) ratio, which is close to the desired two-to-one K/BB mark for a starting pitcher.  Willis will face the Atlanta Braves this weekend and, if successful, he should be upgraded from flier to roster-worthy in even shallow NL-only leagues.
Nate SpringfieldNate Springfield joined the Baseball Press crew for the 2010 season and hosts the site's podcast. His love for the game has grown thanks to fantasy baseball, with a specialty in NL-only auction leagues. You can contact him at nate@baseballpress.com or follow him on Twitter @NateSpringfield.