Start or sit: Will Justin Smoak step up?


Generally on Fridays -- seriously, who doesn't love Fridays? -- I discuss some of the spot-starter options for the coming weekend, the starting pitchers I like and the ones who scare me. Well, this week let's take a look at the hitters. While it's true I won't be "spot-starting" hitters, I'm on the fence about a few players I could be sending back to the free-agent wire after this weekend, and there are a few others I'd like to see more of before entrusting them to my active lineup. So let's investigate.

Runnin' outta time

Ty Wigginton, 1B/2B/3B, Colorado Rockies: Sure, the versatility is nice, but you have to hit a bit, too. Wigginton just isn't taking advantage of Coors Field (two home runs there), and I wonder how much longer the Rockies will keep using him. Wigginton is the 19th most-added hitter in ESPN leagues over the past week, and I don't understand why.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Seattle Mariners: That didn't take long. Smoak hit .229 in May, and so far in June he's hitting .226, which makes him too risky for me, especially when there are so many interesting corner-infield prospects coming to the big leagues, such as Anthony Rizzo and Mike Moustakas. Smoak gets three right-handed pitchers of varying recent success this weekend in Detroit, and if he exits the weekend 2-for-15, many of us might move on without him.

Casey McGehee, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers: I don't want to move on from McGehee because I have him on a few teams and I like to think of him as a safe run producer, but it's like watching Derek Jeter at the plate; McGehee keeps hitting one ground ball after another. Plus, Prince Fielder doesn't leave him as many RBI chances anymore. The Brewers don't have a ton of options here, and already have moved McGehee down in the order a bit, but let's remember this wasn't a great prospect. His past two seasons were solid, but the .227 average this season with few home runs scares me.

Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles: Hard to believe that just a few short years ago Markakis was regarded as a top-10 outfielder, and now he sports a .238 batting average and a sub-.300 OBP, and we're only hoping he makes it to double-digit home runs. Markakis is truly living on reputation, and while I shouldn't admit that one good weekend would lead me to giving him more time it's true in his case. I mean, wouldn't you feel a bit dirty dropping him for Brent Lillibridge or Endy Chavez? Sadly, it's coming to that.

Just about ownable

J.J. Hardy, SS, Baltimore Orioles: I like that he led off Wednesday's game, and while it didn't happen again Thursday, there's always hope. Hardy homered to lead off that Wednesday game and has hit three home runs already this month, and let's face it, shortstop isn't deep. This is a potential 20-homer guy, even with his late start this season. The Orioles should hit him first or second, especially since there is no sign of Brian Roberts returning, and we should hope he stays healthy.

Josh Willingham, OF, Oakland Athletics: Sorry folks, but I can't buy the notion that a managerial change will suddenly jumpstart an offense, or any of its individual parts. Willingham isn't getting a whole lot of singles, but he has twice as many home runs (and nearly as many RBIs) as any of his teammates, and that ballpark on the south side of Chicago tends to feature the long ball. I think Willingham is about to be in demand.

Alexi Casilla, 2B/SS, Minnesota Twins: It doesn't so much matter to me which middle-infield spot Casilla mans, because he is eligible at both, but I'm interested in the stolen bases. Three of his eight on the season have come in the past week, and let's face it, we're not owning him for any other reason. A few more swipes this weekend and people will notice.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves: Amazing how two months ago so many people thought he and Brandon Belt would vie for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Neither has hit, and even when Belt returns from a broken wrist, there are no guarantees he plays. Freeman always plays. If he truly has established himself as a .270-something hitter, one that can knock in runs -- he has five RBIs in June, with four extra-base hits -- he's not a bad utility guy at all.