The calendar just flipped to May, so even the most patient fantasy owners among us must start re-evaluating roster spots. Here’s two young players that could help…
Justin Smoak | Mariners | 1B | Ownership: 36% Yahoo!, 65.0% ESPN
First base is a big boy’s fantasy position, and you’ve got to produce like one to be rosterable in most league. Smoak is doing that right now. His .388 wOBA tops traditional fantasy stalwarts like Ryan Howard (.380) and Paul Konerko (.368), which is impressive when you consider his home ballpark. Smoak’s teammates will drag his fantasy value down a little bit just because they don’t get many guys on base, but he appears to be a safe bet to out-produce his rest of season ZiPS projection: .232/.339/.381 with 14 homers and 53 RBI. If you rolled the dice on Aubrey Huff or Justin Morneau or someone like that, Smoak’s a fine substitute.
Bud Norris | Astros | SP | Ownership: 28% Yahoo, 17.5% ESPN
Quick, who leads the NL in strikeout rate? Okay fine, that’s Matt Garza (11.87 K/9), and hell, Jonathan Sanchez is second (10.91), but you know who’s third? It’s Norris at 10.85 K/9. It’s not a fluke either, he whiffed well over a batter per inning last season (9.25 K/9 in 153.2 IP) and his minor league career is littered with strong strikeout rates. Norris has managed to cut a walk-and-a-half off his BB/9 this year (3.03 BB/9) thanks in part to a) small sample size, and b) throwing a first pitch strike to six out of every ten batters, up more than 5% from last year. There’s no peripheral funny business going on here, his BABIP, HR/9, GB%, FB%, HR/FB%, and contacts rates are almost identical to last season. The Astros right hander has simply cut down on the free passes for whatever reason, and you’ll want to jump on him before someone else does. Norris’ next two starts come at the Pirates than at home against the Mets.