The Texas Rangers are facing an impending decision on whether to call super-prospect Justin Smoak up to replace struggling first baseman Chris Davis. Smoak, who is ranked as baseball's ninth-best prospect by Keith Law and 13th overall by Baseball America, currently remains in Triple A. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of bringing Smoak to the majors in the near future.
- As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith pointed out in his piece on calling up top prospects, if a player makes his major league debut after April 19th, he won't earn a full year's service time this season. So the Rangers could call up Smoak as early as this week and still have delayed his free agency by a year.
- Davis is off to a homerless, .229/.289/.343 start to the 2010 campaign, while Smoak has been tearing the Pacific Coast League up (.353/.500/.647 with two homers).
- When the Rangers drafted Smoak in 2008, Baseball America praised his fielding, citing "Gold Glove-caliber actions and soft hands." Davis's defense at first base is slightly below average (career -2.7 UZR/150).
- The AL West race looks wide open, and the Rangers presumably want to field their best possible lineup immediately. Delaying Smoak's debut for another month and a half could compromise their chances of contending.
- If Texas calls Smoak up before late May or early June, he will earn enough service time to eventually qualify as a Super Two, hitting arbitration a year early.
- It's probably too soon in the season to give up on Davis, considering his career numbers include a .481 slugging percentage and a 162-game average of 30 homers.
- There's no guarantee that Smoak will thrive at the major league level right away. Even a can't-miss prospect like Matt Wieters posted a mere .263/.308/.369 line in the first 70 games of his career.
- Smoak's underwhelming Triple A numbers last season also suggest he could use more seasoning, though they can be partially attributed to a strained oblique.