With the fantasy playoffs nigh, here is a pair of outfielders who can help patch injury-induced holes in your lineup.
Seth Smith (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 53 percent owned)
While Smith has a devoted, vocal following, he doesn’t yet have the widespread name recognition that leads to really high ownership rates. This is good news for owners who need power, as Smith is widely available and is wrapping up a month in which he clubbed 7 HR, which ties him for the 10th most in baseball for the month of August. There’s good news in the fact that Smith isn’t purely a Coors Field mirage — he hits nearly as well on the road as he does at home — but that doesn’t mean Smith is a set-and-forget player. He’s set in a platoon with Eric Young Jr., which keeps him facing righties, and while it means owners need to keep an eye on the Rockies’ lineup, it’s better than having him face lefties on a consistent basis. Like the Rockies, you’ll get the most out of Smith if you pair him with a partner — ideally one with consistent playing time.
The Rockies play more than half of their games at home in September, including 13 of 15 games from September 5th to the 21st, which keeps Smith where he’s been most successful this year for the end of most leagues’ playoffs. If you’re in a league that plays until the dying day of the regular season, Smith does close the season with 10 games on the road, though the first four are against the Astros. Smith is certainly playable on the road, especially in Houston, but utilizing your platoon partner exclusively for the last three days of the season is a wise move, as Smith finishes the year in AT&T Park, a place that has been unkind to him over his career.
Johnny Damon (Yahoo: 42 percent owned, ESPN: 70 percent owned)
The difference between the way Damon began August and the way he has ended it is, somewhat literally, the difference between night and day. Damon’s resurgence began during the second game of the Rays’ August 16th doubleheader against the Red Sox. He entered the nightcap hitting .163/.236/.265 for the month, went 2-for-5 in that game to start an eight-game hitting streak, and has hit .309/.333/.636 with 3 HR since.
Like Smith, Damon is playable at home or on the road, but he, too, is clearly better at one place. Damon has substantially better road rate stats, though his home counting stats are very similar to his away numbers. Still, like Smith, Damon will spend those crucial days in mid-September in his preferred venue as a 10 game road trip takes the Rays to Baltimore, Boston, and New York. While a slog up the eastern seaboard seems like might pose match up problems, Damon has actually played better against the Sox and Yankees than he has against the Orioles.
I’m not terribly concerned that this is a dead cat bounce as Damon was hitting .279/.327/.426 prior to suffering a hand contusion against the Twins on July 6, an injury that lingered longer than expected, though Damon did not land on the disabled list. I see his improvement since then less as resurgence and more of an extension of his early season play with an interlude of ineffectiveness between acts. While he’s unlikely to make you forget that Nelson Cruz is languishing on your DL during a playoff chase, Damon is at least a functional stopgap.