Tagged: Justin Smoak

MLB Season In Review: Seattle Mariners Hitters

By Tommy Rancel //

Biggest Surprise: Russell Branyan

After leading the Mariners in home runs in 2009 (31), few expected Branyan to do it again in 2010. Why? Because he started the season with a nasty back injury (and as a member of the Cleveland Indians). After a few months in Cleveland, he was re-acquired by Seattle. In 57 games, he has hit 15 home runs for the M’s which is (sadly) good enough for the team lead. He also leads the team with a .802 OPS.

Biggest Bust: Chone Figgins

There were plenty of choices here: Milton Bradley, Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez. But Figgins’ poor season comes with the biggest price tag. After signing a four-year deal in the off-season, Figgins is “hitting” .263/.344/.310 this year – a far cry from his career .287/.360/.376 line. He has just 24 extra-base hits in nearly 700 plate appearances and has rated as a below-average defender at second base. The one good thing from a fantasy perspective is Figgins stole 42 bases this season, though he still scored just 62 times in a historically awful Seattle lineup.

2011 Keeper Alert: Ichiro Suzuki

Even in what could be described as a down season for him, Ichiro, remained the Mariners’ top offensive weapon in 2010. His slash line dipped to .315/359/.394, but once again topped the 200-hit mark – becoming the first player in league history with 10 consecutive seasons of 200 hits. In addition to the hits, he also stole 41 bases and somehow managed to cross the plate 73 times – nearly 15% of the teams total runs scored. Another 200 hits and 40 steals should be doable for the great Ichiro in 2011.

2011 Regression Alert: Justin Smoak

As the big chip in the Cliff Lee trade, Smoak has been a disappointment in 2010. The young slugger is hitting just .201/.301/.364 in 356 plate appearances. On the plus side, he’s hit 13 homers in less than 400 plate appearances, and has found his stride in the last couple weeks of the season, hitting for power and showing a much better batting eye. He’s just too talented to be this bad next year, and he could be an excellent deep sleeper.

For more on Ichiro and the Seattle Mariners’ lineup, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.


Smoak in Seattle

By R.J. Anderson //

Given the happenings of the past few days, it’s safe to say most baseball fans are wholly aware of Justin Smoak’s name and new location. The new Mariners’ first baseman is going to have a difficult time making fans forget about just how special Cliff Lee is, but he should do a wonderful job making them forget just how terrible Casey Kotchman was.

Smoak is only 23 years old and a switch-hitter who the Rangers took 11th overall in the 2008 draft. He’s from Goose Creek, South Carolina which is also the birthplace of Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. Rated as the 13th-best prospect in baseball entering this season by Baseball America, Smoak spent only 15 games in the minors during the season, hitting .300/.470/.540 with two homers and six doubles. For his minor league career, which reaches nearly 600 plate appearances, he hit .293/.411/.461.


Not everything is sparkles and giggles however. In nearly 300 major league plate appearances he’s hit .208/.310/.356. That’s not enough time to label a player with his pedigree as a bust, but it’s enough time to make antsier fantasy owners a bit concerned. In down times is when doubts start to creep into people’s minds. Like, maybe Smoak only has warning track power. Or maybe he’s just going to be another Lyle Overbay. You don’t want to trade one of the best pitchers in baseball for a Lyle Overbay.

One projection system, CHONE, had him pegged at .240/.340/.363 this season. Kotchman, for instance, has hit .218/.299/.370 this year and it seems unrealistic to think Smoak would provide less pop than a first baseman who is renowned for his inability to hit his way out of a paper bag.

Still, the reality is Smoak might not contribute much this season. That’s fine, but what about those in keeper leagues who have the chance to add him cheap? That is definitely worth the risk. Even though Smoak will play most of his games in Safeco Field, he will spend most of his time batting from the left-handed batter’s box, meaning Safeco’s constrictor-like death grip on right-handed power won’t affect him as much as, say, Jose Lopez or Adrian Beltre. Of course the same could’ve been applied to Milton Bradley, and he’s got one of the worst slugging percentages of his career.

Bottom line: Stay away from Smoak in standard leagues, grab him in keeper leagues.

For more on the hottest fantasy baseball topics and trends, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

How to Replace Kendry Morales on Your Fantasy Team

by Eno Sarris //

The 2010 season went from glorious to tragic for one player in the midst of a walk-off celebration over the weekend. Though Kendry Morales should be lauded for his strong sophomore follow-up to 2009, his celebration skills need a little work (perhaps he could call Bill Gramatica, the NFL kicker who tore his ACL while celebrating, for a little advice). As he landed on home plate in the midst of an Angels dogpile after his game-winning grand slam home run on Saturday night, Morales fractured a bone in his lower left leg. His recovery may take months, not weeks, and fantasy owners might best be served by counting him out for the rest of the season. If you have a DL or bench spot open, it’s best to wait to hear the results from the surgery before dropping him completely. Regardless, it’s time to look for replacements out there.

First, it’s worth describing what fantasy owners will be losing. From the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools graphs below, we can see that Morales was a fine option at first base, with power and a decent batting average. However, as we pointed out in the preseason, Morales’ power is not of the elite variety. His .197 ISO (isolated power, or slugging percentage minus batting average) ranks 10th at the position this year. With a flukishly high (and likely to regress) flyballs per home run rate (21.6%), it would be folly to just pro-rate out his home run pace (about 33 home runs). That’s doubly true given Morales was hitting fewer than one-third of his balls in the air, and his ISO had taken a step back from last year’s prodigious levels. As you can see from the graph on the far right, Morales’ slugging percentage was close to the mean for a major league first baseman.
Even if he doesn’t have light-tower power, it will be difficult for owners to find a player who has the ability to hit near .300 with 20 or so home runs the rest of the season on the waiver wire. Let’s outline some quick positives and negatives for some first baseman who might be on the wire in your league. These options will go from players available in shallow leagues down to ones you can hopefully get off of your deep league waiver wire.

Luke Scott
If you are willing to make some sacrifices in the batting average category, and you are in one of the 79% of Yahoo leagues that features Scott on the wire, he’s probably the best choice as a Morales replacement. He actually has more power than Morales, as seen through the lenses of ISO (.232 career ISO, .254 this year). There is some concern with Scott that he’s a platoon player (.774 OPS versus lefties, .865 versus righties career). On the other hand, researcher Tom Tango has shown that it takes up to 1000 plate appearances against lefties to provide significant results, so even Scott’s career 443 plate appearances against lefties give him an ‘incomplete’ in the category. Over the past three years, his lefty/righty splits have been virtually identical, so you can probably play him daily, unless your bench is really loaded. While someone like Todd Helton may be on your wire, too (34% owned), Scott is a better Morales replacement because he is showing much more power than Helton (who owns a Rey Ordonez-esque .071 ISO this year) and is therefore probably a better option for most fantasy teams.

Troy Glaus
Glaus is available in 76% of Yahoo leagues, so he should be out there on the standard mixed league waiver wire. The major problem with his candidacy is that the power has not returned to his career level (.239 career ISO) since he had his last shoulder surgery in 2009. His ISO since the end of 2008 is below average (average is usually around .150), so once again it’s not a good idea to pro-rate out his home runs so far when deciding on your pickup. He’s also reaching for pitches more than he has in career (24.2% reach rate this year, 16.9% career), a sign of a potentially slowing bat. On the other hand, he does have seven home runs in the bank, and there’s still the chance he finds his old power. He certainly has more power potential than, say, a Mark Teahen (25% owned, .148 career ISO).

Justin Smoak
The Smoak Monster doesn’t have much by way of major league statistics to help us back up the case, but his minor league slash line (.293/.411/.461) shows the ability to get on base at an elite level. He’s had some power dips at certain spots, but considering his home park (1.387 park factor for home runs), he’ll get some help. His batting average is likely on its way up, considering that he has a great line drive percentage (25.3%) and yet a terrible batting average on balls in play (.184). Smoak, who is available in 92% of leagues, is probably a better pickup than Gaby Sanchez (94% available) because of the pedigree and potential. While both players have similar ISOs right now (.140 for Smoak, .145 for Sanchez), Smoak has had better seasons in the minors than Sanchez ever did.

Russell Branyan
If power is your only concern, and Branyan’s swing doesn’t bother you like it bothers this guy, then the Cleveland slugger might be your best bet. The power is no question mark with Branyan, either this year (.242 ISO), or career (.257 ISO). Just know that his batting average will likely suffer, based of career norms (.234 career average) and his strikeout rate (38.8% career). He’s made some minor advances in the strikeout rate, keeping it around 34% in the past three years, and against righties will provide power with a more respectable batting average. Don’t play him against lefties (.745 OPS in 542 career plate appearances against southpaws), and if he stays healthy enough, Branyan can replace the potential home runs that Morales took with him to the hospital. Branyan is available in 94% of Yahoo leagues and is better than Eric Hinske (also 94%) because of playing time concerns for the Braves utilityman.

All is not lost. Some of these players will be fine stopgaps and the final prognosis on Morales has not been delivered. Remember to breathe easy, don’t break anything, and rush to your waiver wire to try and mitigate your losses.

For more on possible Kendry Morales replacements, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.