Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
A fantasy baseball roster is like a clay pot that never full hardens. The wheel just keeps spinning and spinning as you make adjustments.
The point is, even if you're in first place, the roster you have now might not be the one you want to take into the final four months of the season. Changes can be made with the future in mind.
Below, I've highlighted seven positional comparisons fantasy owners should be making in order to build the best team for the rest of the season. In each situation, the first player realistically could be swapped straight up for the second (All stats as of Saturday, June 1).
First base: Chris Davis or Joey Votto - Davis has given Miguel Cabrera a run for his money in all three Triple Crown categories, batting .354 with 19 home runs and 51 RBI. Votto is hitting .338 with 10 homers, 28 RBI and a 1.000 OPS. While Davis' power potential is off the charts, Votto likely will be more consistent for the rest of the season. Davis has proven to be streaky in his career, and while his plate discipline is much improved this year, he's still striking out in 23 percent of his at-bats and really hasn't experienced a cold streak yet like some of the slumps he went through last season. Votto, meanwhile, reaches base at least once in nearly every game and owns a 30 percent line-drive rate for the second straight season.
Second base: Dustin Pedroia or Brandon Phillips - Pedroia is batting a career- high .333 with three homers, 30 RBI, 30 runs and eight steals, while Phillips has flourished as the cleanup hitter behind Votto. He has nine homers, 45 RBI, 37 runs and one steal to go with a .296 average. Both players are dealing with injuries -- Phillips has a forearm contusion after being hit Saturday night and Pedroia has been playing through a torn thumb ligament -- but Pedroia's is more serious. He struggled for months last season due to a thumb injury. Pedroia also has benefited from a .374 BABIP. With a career-low 25.4 percent flyball rate and a 6.1 percent HR/FB, Pedroia will have a tough time cracking 10 home runs this season. Phillips has a good shot at blasting 25 for the second time in his career and driving in 100 runs for the first time.
Third base: David Wright or Manny Machado - A 9-for-53 (.170) slump has Wright's average down to .277, but he has seven homers, 30 RBI, 29 runs and 11 steals. Machado is hitting .326 with five homers and 30 RBI and looks like a future superstar. Machado only has struck out in 13.9 percent of his plate appearances and has a 23.5 percent line-drive rate. Still, his BABIP is likely to dip from .368. Wright has a 25 percent line-drive rate and his 12.3 percent HR/FB is in line with where he has finished the last two seasons, but his BABIP is down to .317. That's still above league average, but it's still low for a player with a career BABIP of .340. While I'd rather have Machado for 2014 and beyond, I think the 20-year-old needs to prove he can keep this up for a full season. Meanwhile, we know we can pencil Wright in for a .290 average, 20 homers, 80 RBI and 20 steals.
Outfield: Adam Jones or Andrew McCutchen - Jones and McCutchen have similar skill sets, with Jones offering a little more power and McCutchen providing more speed. Jones has the better numbers so far with a .318 average, 11 homers, 37 RBI, 42 runs and nine steals compared to .282, seven round-trippers, 27 RBI, 35 runs and 14 steals for McCutchen. Jones is a valuable fantasy asset, but I think McCutchen is going to have a huge final four months. His strikeout rate is down from 19.6 percent to 12.7 percent and his line-drive rate is up to 25.1 percent from 21.9 percent since 2012. However, while he had a .375 BABIP last season, his BABIP this year is .297. McCutchen likely played over his head when he posted 31 homers and a 19.4 percent HR/FB last season; that rate is down to 10.4 percent in 2013. But if he keeps stroking line drives at a high rate and keeps his strikeouts down, the outfielder should end up hitting .325 to .330 again with 20 home runs and 35 steals.
Catcher: Joe Mauer or Yadier Molina - Mauer has had an odd season. He's striking out in 21.3 percent of his plate appearances after never posting a strikeout rate higher than 13.7 percent in his career, but he's still hitting .332. Mauer also has hit a career-high 28.1 percent line drives. Molina is hitting .351, which is new territory for the veteran catcher. Molina's line- drive rate is a career-high 25.4 percent, but he has a 5.1 percent HR/FB, down from his career-high rate of 13.8 percent in 2012. Molina's average will come down to the .320 range, but he'll still hit more homers and drive in more runs than Mauer, who has just 18 RBI as Minnesota's primary two-hole hitter this year. Plus, Molina is more durable, having played at least 136 games in each of the last four seasons and 52 of St. Louis' 54 this year.
Starting pitcher: Matt Harvey or Shelby Miller - Harvey expended his rookie status last season, when he threw 59 1/3 innings and had a 2.73 ERA. Otherwise, we'd have a heck of a race on our hands for the NL Rookie of the Year. After a down year in Triple-A in 2012, Miller has lived up to his billing as a top prospect by going 6-3 with a 1.82 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and 72 K in 69 1/3 innings. Harvey is 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP and 84 strikeouts in 78 innings. According to FanGraphs, both pitchers' fastball ranks in the top 13 in runs above average and the top 10 in average velocity. However, while Miller has an effective curveball, Harvey's slider, changeup and curveball all rate as above- average pitches and Miller really doesn't have a third pitch yet. Miller may win more games with St. Louis than Harvey with the lowly Mets, but Harvey will dominate for longer stretches this season.
Starting pitcher: Hishashi Iwakuma or Clay Buchholz - Buchholz is 7-0 with a 1.73 ERA, and has raised his K/9 from 6.13 to 9.04 from 2012. He also has allowed just two homers in 72 2/3 innings after serving up 25 in 189 1/3 last season. The one blemish on Iwakuma's record is his 10 home runs allowed, but he has an 8.29 K/9 and a 1.46 BB/9 to Buchholz' 3.34. Iwakuma also has given up a 15 percent line-drive rate to Buchholz' 21.1 percent and has an 11.3 percent swing-and-miss rate to Buchholz' 9.3.