B.J. Upton (162-game pace: 88 runs, 24 HRs, 95 RBIs, 25 SBs)

In 2003, Bossman Junior was the 21st ranked prospect in all the land. Before the 2004 season, he rose up to the number two position (behind Joe Mauer). By the end of that season, Upton had played 69 games at AAA, posting a .311/.411/.519 line. In 2005, he provided similar – albeit slightly lower – numbers at the same level (.303/.392/.490).

Clearly, the Devil Rays were intrigued. In 2006, the parent club promoted Upton for a limited audition. Over 50 games, and 189 plate appearances, he posted an inauspicious .246/.302/.291.

Nevertheless, the following season, at just 22, the Devil Rays gave Upton a shot at a full-time job. In 548 major league plate appearances, he flashed an incredible amount of promise: .300/.386/.508. There were, however, underlying concerns – he had a ridiculous K-rate (32.5%) and Austin Jackson-like BABIP: .395. Still, the isolated power (.209) and 22 stolen bases were nice.  (Isolated power “measures how good a player is at hitting for extra bases.”)

Unfortunately, the Devil Rays became just the Rays following that season and Upton lost his deal with the devil that made all those batted balls become hits. Oh, and he had that injury thing.

While Upton only hit nine home runs during the 2008 season, he did post an impressive .383 OBP, which allowed him to steal 44 bases. He also briefly became a friend of the devil in the postseason, smacking seven dingers.

Fantasy players hoped and séanced that 2009 would be the year Upton reached his 30HR/40 steal potential. He was healthy after all, and the memory of his 24 bombs in 2007 was still fairly fresh. Unfortunately, these hopes were unfulfilled. Instead, 2009 provided more of the same for Upton, as his batting average spiraled further downward and he mustered just 11 homers.

At this point, it looked like Upton was who he was – a light hitting, strike-out machine who could swipe some bases. Then, something magical happened. In 2010, he raised his HR/FB rate above 7.4% and into double digits (11%) for the first time since 2007. He also started hitting a few more fly balls, which contributed to his isolated power “spiking” to .187.

Sure, the .237 average left a lot to be desired. But, the signs for improvement were there. Notably, he had cut down on his ground balls in a major way.

In 2011, B.J. Upton is going to be a great fantasy contributor. He is swinging and missing less, striking out less and making way more contact. He has continued to hit fewer ground balls, and, instead, is hitting sound line drives and fly balls. He has also increased his HR/FB rate.

When all is said in done, Upton will hit 25 HRs, steal 40 bases and post a .255/.345/.440 slash line. Forget 2008-2010, 2011 is the season…

Justin Smoak (162-game pace: 47 runs, 22 HRs, 94 RBIs)

If anyone has ever watched Buck Martinez call a game, you’ll know that the sweetest thing your ears ever heard was the distinction and diction with which Martinez says Smoak.

Smoak was a top 25 prospect from 2009-2010. It’s safe to say he crushed a lot in the minors. For years, keeper league owners deliriously drooled over his potential returns in a potent Rangers lineup and the bandbox in Arlington. Unfortunately, Smoak failed to meet those expectations before heading northwest in exchange for Cliff Lee. Over 375 plate appearances for the Rangers, Smoak went .209/.316/.353 with eight homers.

Like the habitual Seattle rain, the Mariners’ ballpark does its best to dampen run production. Outside of San Diego, this was seemingly the worst place for Smoak to land. In 122 plate appearances with the Mariners last season, he went .239/.287/.407 with five homers. His underlying numbers showed some promise, though they did not indicate an immediate turnaround. Smoak finished with a 26.1% k-rate, .255 BABIP, and 77.3% contact rate. As you can see, his power improved somewhat, but not much else.

Heading into 2011, it didn’t appear that Smoak would reach his promise anytime soon. Indeed, it was entirely possible that the 24-year-old’s development was set back years by his 2010 season and subsequent trade. Smoak must not have been listening to the critics, however. Rather than continue his pedestrian 2010, he came out of spring training gunning. In his first 147 plate appearances, Smoak has a .271/.376/.486 line and six homers.

Clearly he just needed a little adjustment time, right? Wrong.

To date, the Mariner’s first baseman has a .327 BABIP, which just doesn’t jive with the .255 average he had last year, especially when you look under the hood. Smoak has a 13.5% line drive rate (it was 23.1% last year). He has a 37.5% fly ball rate (similar to last season), yet he has a 15.4% HR/FB rate which is a bit higher than in 2010. The scariest thing about Smoak is his 49% ground ball rate. A guy hitting that many balls on the ground is not an elite power or average source.

While his K-rate is slightly down, he is swinging and missing more. He is also making less contact this year than last year.

I’m not optimistic Smoak will continue to have anything like the success he has so far. If he bats over .250, I’ll be shocked. If he hits more than 10 more homers the rest of the way, I’ll be confused. In short, this is the best stretch he’ll have all season. If I owned him, I’d be selling in every league imaginable, including keeper leagues.

  1. Thoughts? Other keeper conundrums?

  2. dsimon says:

    I have a league where an owner owns BJ and wants to trade for my CarGo. This intrigues me after perusing this article.

  3. dingbat says:

    One quibble with this:

    “The scariest thing about Smoak is his 49% ground ball rate. A guy hitting that many balls on the ground is not an elite power or average source.”

    Guys with GB rates over 49% since 2008 include:

    Ichiro Suzuki
    Starlin Castro
    Yunel Escobar
    Delmon Young
    Denard Span

    All of these guys have provided near-elite averages for at least two of the past 3+ years. GBs have a higher batting average on balls in play than fly balls, so it’s definitely possible to have both high GB% and high AVG. The main difference between these guys and Smoak is that they’re all a lot faster than he is, so your main point still stands. But it’s not as simple as saying that high GB% = low AVG.

  4. dingbat says:

    @dsimon: I’d want something else in addition to B.J. Upton. The hit on AVG, Rs, and RBIs will likely outweigh the gain in SBs.

  5. Do not trade UPton for CarGo – CarGo will hit better and for a tad more power – maybe a little less stolen bases, but that’s not hard to overcome

  6. @dingbat:

    You are entirely correct and I kind of oversimplified the problem with groundballs and tacked on the average portion. With high GBs comes a high variance on BABIP.

    Smoak can maintain this but it is extremely unlikely given his speed and history at the plate to date. But simply saying high gb% cannot equal a high average was taking a shortcut – thanks for clarifying for others

  7. @dingbat:

    Completely agree – dead on analysis

  8. BlinkULDHC says:

    Too bad Smoak didn’t get traded to the Red Sox, it’d be a treasure trove of puns.

    “Deep fly ball to right… will it stay fair?…. Yes!… Justin Smoak’s the Pesky Pole!!”

  9. AL KOHOLIC says:

    say rizzo gets THE call next week like i expect and hope,does he hit 280-15 from here on out,if so what will belt bring us then

  10. Joe says:

    I’m trying to deal Smoak as we speak in a keeper league where I also have Hosmer. I’ll definitely keep Hosmer but don’t feel 100% great about having him as my only 1B yet (I prefer using him in one of two UTIL spots if I do start him) so I was thinking about offering Hellickson/Smoak for Dunn. I won’t keep Hellickson after the season (I have some other young pitchers who I think are better and/or cheaper like Pineda, Bumgarner, Zimmermann) so I’d like to move him and Smoak together if possible.

    Do you think that would be good value even with Dunn putting up a lot of nothing? I agree with your Smoak outlook so I don’t want him causing a big hole in my lineup. Otherwise I could just ditch Smoak for a FA like Morse, Moreland, or even Belt if he gets into the lineup regularly and doesn’t have the same early season struggles.

  11. BlinkULDHC says:


    I’d say that those guys are more the exception than the rule.

    The guys you listed are not only faster than Smoak, but most of them are RHBs, which DOES make a difference. Smoak gets a majority of PAs from the left side, and you’re just not going to hit for a high average if you’re hitting GBs 50% of the time, with a majority of GBs going to 1B-2B area.

    Not only that, but I’d hardly call Delmon Young, Denard Span, Yunel Escobar et al. “elite average sources.” They’re around .285-.290 — which is decent — but certainly not “elite.”

    Now, if you can find a SHB or LHP who hits around 50% GB AND hits for an “elite average,” I’ll be impressed.

  12. dsimon says:

    Oh don’t worry, I wouldn’t do it straight up. Definitely not.

  13. I’d be shocked if Rizzo.hit 15 hrs in about 60 percent of the year. He aint Adrian Gonzalez….yet.

    Still like belt more for this year but a lot depends on the call up

  14. BKK says:

    Is this the same Albert Lang that used to maintain the Fantasy Baseball 101 site. What happened man? Where’d you go?

  15. For Joe- I would take a gamble on Dunn. You are essentially trading two parts that aren’t part of the longterm plan. Its a gamble because Dunn has been terrible, but its worth the risk. I thoink Hosmer is an adequate safety net at 1B

    All please excuse the tardiness of my replys and a few typos here and there. I am traveling

  16. This is the same Albert who operated FB101. The owners of that site were going to shut it down, so I moved. You’ll see articles here, at my blog (h2hcorner.wordpress.com) and at Elite Fantasy Players.

    Glad you remember me and hope you like my work

  17. I also do like Moreland more than Smoak…

  18. dingbat says:

    @BlinkULDHC: You’re right — it was harder to find players who fit those specifications. But not impossible. Here are a few more numbers (all are from 2008 to 2011):

    Player name, GB%, AVG, AVG Rank, R/L/S

    Joe Mauer, 48.4%, .338, 1, L
    Ichiro Suzuki, 57.3%, .321, 3, L
    Christian Guzman, 53.1%, .292, 27, S
    Carl Crawford, 49.6%, .290, 31, L

  19. wire says:

    Krod and Brett Anderson for Lester?

  20. Black Beard says:

    Thoughts on Vogelsong? Contemplating picking him up if Bailey’s shoulder is serious.

  21. i prefer Lester in a vaccum. the big question is who you either drop if you get KRod/Anderson (and how badly you need saves) or who you pick up if you are receiving Lester

  22. I wrote something on Vogelsong at h2hcorner.wordpress.com. The bottom line is he is no sure bet to stay in the rotation. I think he is a match-ups guy in 12-teamers but not a longterm plan

  23. wire says:

    I am trading anderson and k-rod for lester… I prefer Lester as well…
    I have Kimbrel, Madson, Farnsworth, and Broxton (i would trade K-Rod) in a 13 team mixed roto. I love Lester and grow concerned about Anderson and staying healthy. Lester would join Kershaw, Gallardo, Wood, and some other yahoos to compliment my staff. I lead the league in saves by 10…. I have 46 next is 36, 36, and 30

  24. Aardvark says:


    So when ya’ll say, “this is what else I saw in fantasy baseball yesterday”, how come nobody is seeing what Mike Stanton has been doing? Last mention of him was May 5th. A .390 avg and 6 HR in his past 14?!?! Poppycock I say!! On another note, these are great reads every single day thanks for the entertainment. The e-book was awesome too. Well done.

  25. Getting Lester is a darn good way to use your resources.

  26. wire says:

    Thanks im gonna roll with it, thanks for validating it.

  27. BKK says:

    @albert: Cool. Good to know! I did like to read your articles. Had a look at your blog, seems to follow similar vain to FB101.

  28. Roger Lodge says:

    Ouch! That’s some scathing criticism of Smoak! Honestly, I suppose I must’ve been Drinking the kool-ade a little too much with this guy.

    The good thing is that I went ahead and scooped up all of the best 1B rookies (imo), including Moreland and Trumbo (LaPorta has been calling out).

    I guess the question is who among these mashers will a) give me the most power, b) end up with the best overall numbers and c) on a semi-unrelated note, who do you think the front-runners for AL and NL ROY are so far?

    I’m pretty interested in anyone’s thoughts on this. Maybe I’m just dull, or simply that desperate for potential power, but I’m hoping that at least one of these guys will pan out. Thanks.

  29. Hey Roger- must say I love your television work.

    Of the three, I like Moreland the most. Steady guy with decent pop, average and counting numbers.

    Trumbo looks like a legit 25+ HR guy, but his average will suffer. But if its power you need, Trumbo’s your guy.

    As for ROY: Britton seems to be the leader and I’d bet on Belt in the NL.

  30. thanks BKK- same schtick different place. glad you read! thank you!

  31. pablo says:

    Since this post, Smoak’s average has gone up to .260 (hitting .277 for the month of june) and he’s had 6 dingers. Regression still in store?

  32. @pablo:

    Well technically since the post, his average has dropped from .271 to .260 since i wrote this post.

    I still dont think he hits over .250. The under 10 HRs is in jeopardy, but he still has a 10.9% line drive rate. I maintain that his average will make his power useless. I would rather have someone like Mark Trumbo

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