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Roto Riteup: July 20, 2013

And we’re back! Not to sound like a typical millennial…but man this movie was awesome as a kid in the 90’s.

On today’s agenda:
1. Quick thoughts on Justin Smoak
2. Chad Gaudin: spot starter
3. Junior Lake‘s debut

Quick thoughts on Justin Smoak
Yesterday Justin Smoak smacked his ninth home run of the year and is now hitting at a solid .271/.372/.441 clip. It was his sixth road home run of the year compared to three at home. Seeing a big home/road home run split wouldn’t be surprising in years past, given that Smoak calls Safeco home, however this year is different. A surprising fact is that the Seattle Mariners rank in the top half — number 11 — of home field home runs and are tied for second in baseball with 119 total homers. The Mariners wanted to acquire more power over the off-season and they sure got it.

While team success — at least success as far as raw home run total is concerned — is nice for Mariners fans, Smoak still remains a fringe player at best in standard mixed leagues. Currently sporting a .325 BABIP versus a career .267 mark, Smoak probably won’t keep floating a wOBA above .350 for much longer. His walk rate makes him more useful in on-base percentage leagues than standard 5×5, however his counting stats are still less than what anyone should be playing at first base, corner infield, or even utility. His swing rates are all in line with his career norms and no significant change to his approach can be discerned from his swing peripherals. Smoak’s current 127 wRC+ seems more like a blip on the radar than any real change. Perhaps 14-team league mixed with deep rosters and AL-only formats can make use of Smoak, but the fantasy level for first base is just too high to roster Smoak in standard leagues.

Chad Gaudin: spot starter
In his seventh start of the season, Chad Gaudin pitched his best game yet. In his fourth quality start he threw seven shut out innings and tallied eight strikeouts along the way. He didn’t surrender a walk and allowed just three hits. Gaudin’s .253 BABIP on the season has certainly made his 2.15 ERA, though his 3.03 FIP and 3.80 xFIP suggest that Gaudin could be a long term starter. He has been in the rotation since Ryan Vogelsong hit the disabled list and Gaudin is now 4-0 as a starter with 35 strikeouts in 42.1 innings.

Gaudin possesses a decent strikeout rate and as long as he limits the walks (career 4.14 BB/9 as a stater) he can be a useful spot starter. He is a fly ball pitcher in AT&T with an above average (for a starter) swinging strike rate. Gaudin is available in 90% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues and over 70% of CBS formats. At this point he is a pitcher who should be started at home or on the road against favorable matchups, effectively making him a solid mixed league spot starter.

Junior Lake‘s debut
The Chicago Cubs called up Junior Lake yesterday. He got the start in center field and hit sixth in the lineup. This year Lake has played third base and right field in the minors, however he does have significant time at shortstop as recently as last season. This is probably a temporary gig as Lake’s playing time is only guaranteed as long as David DeJesus is on the shelf dealing with a shoulder sprain. In addition to DeJesus, both Ryan Sweeney and Brian Bogusevic have appeared in center field and are currently on the DL.

Even if this is temporary for Lake, he didn’t waste any time showing off his tools. He went 3-for-4 yesterday and stole his first major league base. Prior to his call up Lake was hitting .295/.341/.462 with 16 extra-base hits in 40 games for Triple-A Iowa. He may be an injury replacement for now, but he has shown that he can handle upper echelon pitching. He’s also grabbed 14 steals though he has been caught five times. Lake may not receive enough playing time this year to be fantasy relevant— though that could change with a Nate Schierholtz or Alfonso Soriano trade — Lake is a player to grab next spring. If a trade does happen, one can grab Lake (who is currently eligible strictly at shortstop in ESPN and CBS only third base in Yahoo!) as someone who should gain eligibility all over the field. He is available in over 98% of leagues from the three major sites.