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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