Seth Smith's value increases for stretch run 

August, 23, 2010
One of the beneficiaries of the Colorado Rockies' release of Brad Hawpe is outfielder Seth Smith, who has been caught in a playing-time battle all season long despite providing decent production when in the lineup.

Smith has posted a .261 average with 14 homers, 45 RBIs and 43 runs, with a couple of steals thrown in. Not bad for a hitter with fewer than 300 at-bats, but this has actually been a bit of a down campaign for him. Entering the season, Smith had played 207 big league games and had a .290 AVG/.375 OBP/.499 SLG stat line.

Seth SmithMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireSeth Smith has started four of the past five games.

"It is tough at times [receiving sporadic playing time], especially if your swing leaves you for a little bit," said Smith. "You don't have a chance to get in the game and work on it, so you just have to do your best in the cage and during batting practice. I have a different routine on days I start and days when I'm on the bench, so it's all about finding what makes your comfortable."

Smith has not been more prominent in fantasy play not only because of the crowded outfield, but also because he has rarely played against lefty pitchers. And when he does get at-bats against them, he hasn't hit them well. In parts of four seasons in the majors, Smith has just 115 at-bats versus southpaws, and has hit .191 against them.

"It's a little frustrating, but at the same time when I've gotten at-bats against left-handers, some of them have been bad," said Smith. "I think I can hit them, but it's all about who is producing on the field."

By the same token -- and this is what makes him so interesting in fantasy -- Smith has hit well against right-handed pitching. For his career, Smith has hit .296 with 30 homers, a .373 on-base percentage and a .525 slugging percentage in 619 at-bats against righties.

The former backup quarterback to Eli Manning at Ole Miss -- he never took a snap in three seasons -- the 27-year-old Smith has the prototypical sweet lefty swing, and he lets his power come naturally instead of trying to overswing. He keeps his hands inside the ball well and hits the ball where it's pitched, to all fields. He's also adept at handling the strike zone, and generally waits for pitches he can drive instead of ones he can merely make contact with.

Smith is very much a hitter who needs to stay in sync and in rhythm. "My swing looks kind of simple, but to me it feels like a lot of moving parts," said Smith. "One day I have to pay attention to my hands, other days my load, and hopefully I have it figured out before batting practice." Smith has a nice stroke, he just needs to stay consistent at the plate and not give away at-bats at times, and the best way to do that is with consistent playing time, which it appears he's now in line for (following Hawpe's release). I also think that he has the chance to do better against southpaws if they kept him in the lineup against them, but for now, you'll certainly take his ability to mash righties if you're the Rockies or a fantasy team.

I said it in the preseason, and I'll say it again: Smith can hit, and he's underrated in fantasy. Given that his ownership in just three percent of ESPN standard leagues as of Monday morning, he deserves more consideration for spot-starting duties when the Rox face a righty in daily-transaction leagues, or are set to face a bunch of them in leagues with weekly transactions. If you have the roster flexibility to deploy him like that, he can provide a nice return down the stretch if you need more punch in your outfield.



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