In this week's edition of Under the Radar, everything comes in pairs. We've got two "2s" for those keeping score at home, a pair of Japanese imports on sale, a couple of Joneses of no relation and for good measure, we have Twins. As Vin Scully likes to say, "Deuces are wild."
Ivan Rodriguez, C (Nationals), Rod Barajas, C (Mets)
When Rodriguez signed with the Nationals, his fifth team in three years, he was expected to be a mentor for Jesus Flores. But with Flores still sidelined from shoulder surgery, the 38-year-old catcher has seized the opportunity (.365 BA, .494 SLG in 85 AB). Flores isn't expected back until June at the earliest, giving Rodriguez more time to resurrect his career.
Barajas also has jumped teams the past few seasons but he seems to be settling in as a New Yorker. He has displayed tremendous power this season, smashing 9 HR in 23 games, including three multi-homer games. Although he's a .239 career hitter and he occasionally splits catching duties with Henry Blanco, Barajas offers rare pop at the "2" position.
Kosuke Fukudome, OF (Cubs), Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP (Red Sox)
The Red Sox paid $51.1 million just to negotiate with Matsuzaka in '06, and it seemed like a decent investment after his first two seasons (33-15, 3.73 ERA, 1.32 WHIP). Since then, he has struggled with injuries and he's off to a bad start in '10 (1-1, 9.90 ERA, 1.80 WHIP). Still, a healthy Matsuzaka is worth grabbing at a discounted price in hopes of getting his better form.
Fukudome signed a four-year, $48 million contract with Chicago in '07 but he hasn't come as advertised in his first two major-league seasons (.259, 11 HR, 58 RBI are his career highs). He is starting to put things together in '10 (.318, 5 HR, 18 RBI in 88 AB), which is a good sign that he can become the power hitter that he was with Japan's Chunichi Dragons.
Andruw Jones, OF (White Sox), Chipper Jones, 3B (Braves)
Whether you called him overweight or just plain fat, Jones certainly looked horrible in a Dodgers and Rangers uniform the past two seasons. He definitely didn't hit his weight (.190, 20 HR, 57 RBI in 490 AB), which makes his '10 start a huge surprise. Jones has regained his long-ball swing (9 HR in 92 AB) and his batting average is back to respectability (.264). At the very least, you can cut out the fat jokes.
In keeping up with the rest of the Joneses (I've also touted Garrett and Adam this year), let's not forget about Larry Wayne "Chipper." If you have him on your roster, you probably missed out on younger talents like Ryan Zimmerman, Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval. All is not lost: Jones has batted .318 the past five seasons and averaged 23 HR and 81 RBI despite dealing with a handful of injuries. Why not role the dice and hope he doesn't pull his groin too often?
Carl Pavano, SP (Twins), Orlando Hudson, 2B (Twins)
No true Yankee fan would touch Pavano after four injury-plagued seasons in the Bronx and with good reason (9-8, 5.00 ERA in 26 starts). However, he made 33 starts with the Indians in '09 and he's looking stronger this season with Minnesota (3-3, 3.43 ERA, 1.12 WHIP).
Meanwhile, Hudson is trying to get back on track after a wrist injury derailed his '08 season in Arizona. Few might remember he was an All-Star with the Dodgers in '09 only to fade in the second half and eventually lose playing time to Ronnie Belliard. Another health risk, O-Dog is capable of giving you solid numbers at the 2B spot -- .290, 15 HR, 65 RBI are easily within his reach.