Fantasy Baseball Hidden Gems

The 2011 Major League Baseball season opened on March 31st which means fantasy baseball is now also underway. Having a strong start to the season in fantasy could mean the difference between your team making the playoffs or not. Here are a few hidden gems who are most likely available on waivers or free agents in your league that will be able to help your team.

Erik Bedard (Seattle: SP) – Bedard is owned in just 28% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues at this point. He missed the entire 2010 season after having shoulder surgery so there is some health risk involved here but the rewards are high. Back in 2007, Bedard posted over 200 strikeouts and an ERA in the low 3’s. He’s had a great spring training which shows that he could be on track for a really good season. Pick him up in the later rounds of your draft as a flier or as a free agent.

A.J. Burnett (New York Yankees: SP) – Burnett is owned in 45% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues which is still less than half. If for no other reason, Burnett is worth having solely because he is the second pitcher in the Yankees’ rotation. He should post double digit figures in the wins column and has a managed to strikeout around 200 batters in 2 out of the last 3 seasons. He’s definitely a guy that can help your fantasy team so if he is on free agents in your league, pick him up before someone else does.

Brad Hawpe (San Diego: 1B, OF) – Hawpe had a very disappointing season last year, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s no reason he should be owned in a measly 3% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues. Prior to last season, the guy had 20+ HR and 80+ RBI’s in four consecutive years. Hawpe has gotten off to a hot spring with San Diego and will look to be getting his career back on track. Having one down year doesn’t make him a bad player, but allows for fantasy owners to scoop him up at a huge discount. His double position eligibility doesn’t hurt either.

Coco Crisp (Oakland: OF) – If you are looking to add some speed to your team, consider looking at Coco Crisp. He is owned in just 41% of fantasy leagues. In just 75 games last year, he swiped 32 bags so imagine what he could do over the course of a full season. He’s missed time due to injuries over the last few years so he is a health risk, but there’s no reason not to grab him while he’s still healthy.

Mike Aviles (Kansas City: 2B, SS) – Aviles may not hit many home runs, but he contributes in hits, stolen bases, and batting average. Considering he is eligible at the two hardest positions to fill in fantasy baseball, this adds a bit to his overall value. He’s batting .340 with 4 SBs and 15 runs in 17 games this spring so he looks to be poised for an excellent season.

Travis Hafner (Cleveland: Util) – It seems like just yesterday when Hafner was a lock for 20+ HR and 100+ RBIs. In reality, those days seem long gone. Ever since Hafner missed most of the 2008 season with injuries, he just hasn’t been himself. Hafner hasn’t had 400 at-bat’s since 2007 so he is definitely an injury risk. Despite this fact, there’s always the chance he could still return to form. He’s only owned in 2% of fantasy leagues and may be worth taking a risk on.

Jose Contreras (Philadelphia: RP) – Brad Lidge will miss the next 3-6 weeks with a right rotator cuff strain. This lines up Jose Contreras to be closing games for the Phillies for the next month or two. Claimed in just 52% of fantasy leagues, he could be a good source of cheap saves.

Matt Capps (Minnesota: RP) – Joe Nathan was an elite-tier closer in fantasy for the Minnesota Twins. That is until missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery. He’s back now but it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be after surgery. Matt Capps is first in line if Nathan blows it. He was very effective last season in Nathan’s absence with 16 saves on 18 opportunities (and 26 saves on 30 opportunities with Washington). 42 saves is no joke and Capps also had a pretty sweet ERA. He’s the real deal and has what it takes to be a full-time closer in the MLB.