Justin Smoak, Will Middlebrooks: Corner Infield Waiver Wire

There are just two weeks left in August and then, come September, rosters expand and your league’s waiver wire gets flooded with names filled with potential. But until then, you’re stuck sifting through the same old names, desperately hoping someone catches fire and can help boost your fantasy totals, even if for just a short time. Adding help at the corner infield spot can be a difficult task at this time of year, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Justin Smoak, SEA |1B|  Ownership: ESPN – 24.2%  Yahoo – 22.0%

After listening to my 15-year old nephew’s incessant yammering about the Mariners first baseman and knowing that our own Mike Petriello wrote him up on July 26 after a white-hot month, I was reluctant to include him here. But after reading some of the comments to Petriello’s piece and seeing the recent ownership percentages, it seemed like another endorsement was needed. Most will agree that Smoak’s .289-3-10 July was probably fueled by an unusually high .368 BABIP, but here we are nearly three weeks from the time the last article was written and Smoak has showed no signs of slowing down. Yes, his .440 BABIP in August is way overblown, but with a virtually unchanged strikeout rate, an improved walk rate, a tasty .750 slugging percentage, and a quality distribution of line drives, ground balls and fly balls, at what point do you credit the player for turning things around rather than chide him for relying on luck? If the guy is hitting, the numbers look good and there are reasons like a lighter bat, better swing rates, and an improved ISO at home thanks to the fences being moved in, then you need to take advantage of it while you can. The biggest knock on him is how he hits, or should we say doesn’t hit, lefties, but in looking at his career totals, this year’s 90 at-bat struggle is not the norm. Grab him and use him against righties, monitor his recent work against lefties and look for improvement, and maybe, just maybe you’ll have yourself a full-time guy you can leave in your lineup regularly for the next month and a half.

Will Middlebrooks, BOS  |3B|  Ownership: ESPN – 21.9%  Yahoo – 29.0%

Okay, so you bought into last year’s power numbers, made an overpriced investment this year and got burned by the lack of production from the Red Sox third baseman. It’s time to get over it. If you’re struggling for production at the hot corner or just the corner infield spot, then why not give Middlebrooks another shot? He didn’t exactly tear it up at Triple-A Pawtucket during his demotion, batting just .268 and striking out nearly 20-percent of the time, but he did have a solid 8.2-percent walk rate and swatted 10 home runs while posting a more-than-just respectable .196 ISO over 196 plate appearances. He’s been back up for three games (a big yawn at your knee-jerk sample size cries) and is 5-for-12 (.417) with two RBI, three runs scored and a walk and has looked fairly solid in each of his at-bats — even in the three that ended in a strikeout. I’m not saying that he’s the be-all, end-all here, but if he can come close to last season’s power display for just the month and a half you need from him here, then he’s definitely worth a look.

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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

12 Responses to “Justin Smoak, Will Middlebrooks: Corner Infield Waiver Wire”

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  1. danwatson19 says:

    Would you pick up Smoak or Ike Davis first in a league which uses OPS as a 6th stat? Basically need a backup/utility player, would like some power (HR and OPS) down the stretch . Reddick and Grossman are also options.

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    • FeslenR says:

      probably Ike, if you need a power boost-he did sock 32 HRs last season, and as all sluggers go the HRs will come in droves.

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    • Howard Bender says:

      I’m actually leaning towards Smoak on this one. Sure, Davis is just starting to get a chance to hit against lefties, but he’s just not impressing me at all. Smoak has shown genuine improvement and has shown the power as well. Stronger OBP and better slugging too.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:


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    • Balthazar says:

      Smoak, in your situation.

      He has an ISB of .100; that’s consistent with his career, going to remain, and the strongest component of his season. He’s had hot streaks making contact before, so one can’t really count on his ISO staying decent. Maybe, but caution is warranted there. And his BABIP is sure to fall. There’s nothing really elevated about what he’s been doing since he came back up from AAA, though. He’s built himself into a 2 Win player with room to improve, and has a shorter, better swing that’s giving him more contact and more line drives from it. He won’t put a ton of balls in the seats, but he’s actually hitting more doubles than HRs now which is new for him and reflective of the changes. And he’s going to play regularly the rest of the way, so he’ll generate production. The walks are the key for what you say, to repeat it.

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  2. FeslenR says:

    Will Middlebrooks is an iffy player, both Real and fantasy. I don’t really trust a player who strikes out as much as he does.

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  3. Rodney says:

    Should I drop Freese for Smoak? Freese is currently my 1B/3B. I’m in 2nd and only need OBP and RBIs.

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    • Balthazar says:

      You’ll probably get more from Smoak. He’s always walked more. The range of his ISO is higher, and more consistent. He’s having the better year. Smoak doesn’t hit in a place in the line-up to get you many RBIs, but he’s been delivering some during his recent improved play, so get it while you can.

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  4. Howard Bender says:

    I’d go with Smoak. Both should post solid OBP totals but I think Smoak has more RBI ROS than Freese.

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  5. Liberty Valance says:

    My take away from your blurb about Middlebrooks: it would be foolish to add him because he was so-so in the minors, and has yet to play in enough games since being recalled to extrapolate anything. That’s what the data given have to say.

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  6. Justin says:

    Any thoughts on the return of Ludwik? Shoulder injuries seem to zap power and he didnt ecactly tear it up in his rehab, but he could have some nice value the rest of the way. I have one rost spot open, would middlebrooks or ludwik be a better guy to take a flyer on?

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  7. Michael says:

    Would like to get your opinion on who the two weakest pitchers on my team are? This is a H2H points-based league with a heavy emphasis on wins (+7 points), QS (+3 points) and losses (-5 points). My pitchers in question are Erasmo Ramirez,
    Alexi Ogando , CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi , Randall Delgado , Joe Kelly , Gerrit Cole , Sonny Gray, Ryan Vogelsong . I have a trade in place for draft picks in exchange for Kyle Lohse and Ricky Nolasco. Which two pitchers should I drop though?

    Also: I’ve already clinched the playoffs. So, this would be a move to prep for the playoffs instead of a win-now kind of move.

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