Justin Smoak (ESPN: 6 percent owned; Yahoo!: 14 percent owned)
The last few weeks have been good to American League first basemen named Justin, but whereas Messr. Morneau is owned in virtually every ESPN league in which he’s eligible, the Smoak Monster is widely available and is in the midst of an equally impressed stretch of play. After an April that almost bad enough to induce vomiting — .200/.247/.325 with just three home runs — Smoak has been much better in May, hitting .255/.303/.451 with six home runs, and while that’s still not a sparkling line from a first baseman, he’s been even better as the month has come to an end. Over his last four series, Smoak has put up a solid .302/.362/.674 line with five home runs including a pair at home.
Strikeouts are always going to be there for Smoak, he’s part of the slugging class for whom they’re no more correctable than Winthrop’s lisp in The Music Man, but it was good to see at least a slight drop in his strikeout rate and a slight increase in his walk rate. Three true outcomes players are great for fantasy, don’t get me wrong, but right now Smoak is really more of a one or one-and-a-half true outcomes, so the trend toward more walks and more home runs is definitely a positive sign.
ZiPS isn’t particularly optimistic about Smoak’s rest of the season production, pegging him for .231/.303/.385 with 20 HR total or 14 more for those thinking about grabbing him off the wire. I’d be a little hesitant about just plugging him into a lineup and letting the chips fall where they may, but throwing him into a platoon could be a lucrative proposition. Smoak is hitting .257/.306/.442 away from Seattle, but just .188/.233/.319 at home, so slotting him into the 1B or UTL spot while the Mariners are on a road trip could be a solid move if that roster spot is available.
Jordan Pacheco (ESPN: 3 percent owned; Yahoo!: 3 percent owned)
Consistent playing time has been good to Pacheco as he didn’t look great during his brief April cameo, but has looked much, much better with his 18 starts in May. The one thing that sours me on Pacheco a little bit is that he’s not bringing much to the table except his batting average. He showed neither great power nor consistent speed in the minors, and while he’ll probably sneak a home run or two out of Coors or pick up a steal on the back end of a double steal, not having much to offer in the counting categories leaves him vulnerable to sudden losses of value.
The good news is that Pacheco is ripping the ball all over the park right now with line drive rates of 26 percent, 20 percent, and 24 percent to left, center, and right fields respectively. If he keeps hitting at anything resembling those rates, it makes the likelihood of a random BABIP drop seem pretty remote, and that will keep him from losing a ton of value in a short amount of time. Now, odder things have happened, but as an injury replacement or short-term starter, Pacheco should be a fairly even keeled choice. I suspect owners will get strong signals of regression before his bat swoons, which should allow owners who need a 3B for the rest of the season a chance to drop Pacheco and grab another hot hand.
Unlike a lot of Rockies hitters, Pacheco plays on the road about as well as he does at home, so in that sense he’s more versatile than someone like Dexter Fowler, who has such a pronounced Home/Road split. I know 1B/3B types usually boast some power in their profile, which is part of the reason Pacheco is so widely available, but I think he’s a stronger pick up than, say, Ian Stewart is right now, even though the latter will almost certainly out homer the former.