Waiver Wire: Youngish First Basemen

Few prospects dominate the majors immediately. Ike Davis and Justin Smoak had so much promise once upon a time, only to see their stars dim in recent years. Coming into the season, Davis was still a somewhat promising player, whose struggled through an early illness in 2012. Smoak had already been written off as a bust. While the struggles continue for Davis, he’s starting showing signs of life after a recent promotion. Smoak is starting to show effectiveness in the majors for the first time in his career. There may still be hope for the former prospects.

1B Ike Davis 37% owned in CBSSports.com leagues

Davis was a popular breakout candidate entering the year based on a hot second half last year. After a terrible start due to a bout with Valley Fever, he hit .255/.346/.542 during the second half. Those numbers didn’t carry over this year. Davis hit .161/.242/.258 in his first 207 plate appearances in 2013, leading to a demotion. After spending nearly a month in the minors, Davis returned in early July.

Since then, Davis has hit .302/.478/.442 in 115 plate appearances. He’s turned into a walk machine, with 29 walks to 24 strikeouts over that period. While Davis’ power hasn’t manifested itself with home runs, he’s added nine doubles. The lack of power may correct itself, as Davis’ 9.5% HR/FB rate is easily the lowest of his career.

Davis has been utilized as a platoon player since his return, but that may change. Manager Terry Collins said Davis’ recent play warranted him more starts against left-handers. He followed through with that promise Wednesday, starting Davis against Chris Capuano. If you’re desperate for power, Davis could be a nice pickup down the stretch. He’s not a must-add yet in mixed leagues, but he could be useful as a platoon first baseman if you’re lacking a strong option.

1B Justin Smoak 41% owned in CBSSports.com leagues

For the first time in his career, Smoak looks like an above-average hitter. His .361 wOBA ranks seventh among all first baseman who have received at least 300 plate appearances. Smoak has gotten better as the season has progressed. He’s steadily increased his average every month. Smoak has been slightly more selective at the plate, and is drawing walks at a career-high 12.6%. He’s also starting to hit for more power, already surpassing his doubles total from 2012.

There are a few warning signs with Smoak. For one, nearly all of his numbers have come against righties. Smoak is hitting just .189/.270/.233 against left-handers. All 13 of his home runs have come against right-handed pitching. Thankfully, the majority of pitchers he’s going to face are right-handed, meaning he’s on the better side of the platoon. While he’s shown more patience, he’s also struck out at a career-high 23.2%. The fact that he’s hitting .273 seems unsustainable, and it’s no surprise that his .335 BABIP is higher than we should expect.

Aside from a drop in average, Smoak’s numbers may not decline too much. Like Davis, Smoak is a strong platoon option at first. He’s not a must-add in mixed leagues yet, but should be owned in AL-only leagues.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


13 Responses to “Waiver Wire: Youngish First Basemen”

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  1. Alfie "Swisher Sweets" Tomlinson says:

    So, Belt, Freese, Smoak or Ike as my 1B/3B? I need OBP and RBIs most. Is there a standout among the bunch? If so, why?

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    • HunterPants says:

      I’d go with Belt as long as he keeps getting slotted in front of Posey.

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    • Brooks says:

      Brandon Belt is one of the hottest 1B in the game right now. He’s got a 1.007 OPS since July 9, highest of any 1B in baseball in that time. Kind of surprised he wasn’t included in this post actually. Either it’s just a hot stretch, or he’s starting to figure it out.

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      • Brooks says:

        Wow, .292/.375/.510 since May 14. So he really only had a bad first month and a half of the season. I think this is more than a hot stretch.

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      • BubbaBiscuit says:

        Belt was likely not included because of his ownership rate, this article was about getting help that is available in over half the leagues according to CBSSports league data.

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      • Brooks says:

        He’s owned in 42% of Yahoo leagues and 33% of ESPN leagues.

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      • BubbaBiscuit says:

        Well, he is owned in 65% of CBSSports leagues, but I agree he is worth picking up if you need help and can trust he gets playing time, never can tell with Bruce Bochy.

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  2. dirck says:

    Belt always seems just one bad at bat away from Bochy benching him in favor of some below replacement value slug for a couple of months .

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  3. Scotty says:

    This comments section is about a player not even in the article but I guess I’ll pile on. Belt or LaRoche ROS?

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  4. Michael says:

    Morse or Arod ROS? Currently own Morse, but I’m leaning heavily toward dropping him for Arod. Arenado and Alonso are also available. H2H points-based league.

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