Position Battles Premier Week – First Base

With the start to the second half feeling a little stagnant in Fantasyland, I decided to a add a little wrinkle to this blogging situation. Some of the most pivotal, make-or-break situations during a season come when deciding between two players at a certain position of need to pickup off the waiver wire. Case in point: When Curtis Granderson went down with an injury back in early May, I was looking for an outfield replacement with a little speed and pop. Cameron Maybin and Chris Young were both sitting out there, and I foolishly grabbed Maybin based on his “upside” and Young’s disappointing last couple seasons. Well Maybin’s enjoying life at Triple-A right now I could sure use C.Y.’s 17 homers and 19 steals.

Although I may have just destroyed my credibility, I figured I’d install a weekly feature examining the top contenders widely available at whichever position(s) are making waves that week. To help prevent you from making the same mistake I made with Maybin, I’ll try to determine which guy is best to own going forward.  So here goes nothing….

Edition 1 – First Base

The Champ:  Justin Smoak, Mariners – .212-10-38, 11 percent owned in Yahoo! Leagues

118405.jpgThe Skinny
It’s kind of shocking how available Smoak is right now, considering all the media love he’s gotten this year after a much anticipated call-up in April and his inclusion in the Cliff Lee trade on July 9. A lot of that has to do with The 23-year-old’s 5-for-49 skid over his last 11 games with the Rangers and first three with the M’s. But the talented switch-hitter got a jolt of life during the break and has emerged with two homers and three multi-hit games since, renewing his buzz as a hot pickup.

Challenger:  Luke Scott, Orioles – .285-14-34, 14 percent owned in Yahoo! Leagues

medium_scott29.jpgThe Skinny
Primarily a designated hitter but eligible at first, Scott was on the DL for the first half of July with a hamstring pull, causing his ownership to take a huge hit. The 32-year-old lefty batsman returned on July 19 and has gone 6-for-12 with a two-homer game and four ribbies.  Averaging 24 homers and 71 RBIs over the last two seasons, Scott is one of the streakiest hitters in the game. This is possibly the best and worst thing about him. A 15-for-33, six-homer, 10-RBI stretch over nine games in May can carry a fantasy team, but a .194 average like he had in April can seriously hamper one.

These two guys couldn’t be more polar-opposites. You have the toolsy mega-prospect oozing with “potential” vs. the uninspiring veteran with a limited upside. While there’s something sickly endearing about a guy who chops down trees in the offseason to keep his swing in gear, Scott has been a boring name dating back to his days in Houston, and no one really loves owning a guy on the Orioles. There’s nothing more gratifying than watching a youngster like Smoak emerge as a fantasy force on your own squad. Plus he’s got that name with endless possibilities for puns, and it appears some people on this very site have gone so gitty with it that they’ve replaced  all usage of the actual word with the OAK version. Justin wins here.

Scott is a noticeably better hitter after the All-Star break, batting .275 with an .868 OPS compared to .260 and .839 in the first half. Smoak’s value took a nice little hit after being traded from a beastly offense at the Hitter’s Haven in Arlington to a lineup with Franklin Gutierrez as their three-hitter at spacious Safeco Field. As streaky as Scott can be, he’s actually hit .321 since the calendar turned May with a plus-nine OPS in each month. Smoak’s 16/2 K/BB rate in nine games with the Mariners isn’t incredibly promising, and he might need some more seasoning before reaching that immense potential everyone seems to agree he possesses. Smoak is definitely the more tempting option here, but it seems like the wiser move is to go for Scott — you kinda know what you’re gonna get.

So if you have Justin Morneau sitting on your DL, or if you’re fed up with an ice-cold Troy Glaus who’s magic has worn off, Luke Scott has emerged as the guy you want to scoop up at first base for now.

Winner: Luke Scott

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