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Better know your Blue Jays 40-man: Justin Smoak

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, I don’t want to write about Justin Smoak. But let’s give it a shot.

He’s a switch-hitting first baseball (or a switch-not-hitting first baseman). Career, he’s been better against RHP (.221/.325/.413) than LHP (.209/.284/.337). To me, that’s better enough against RHP to make me think he should give up on the switch-hitting business and just work on his swing from the left side. It’s easier to work on one swing than to work on two.

We picked Smoak up off waivers, back in October of 2014, from the Mariners. We didn’t mind the move, at the time, figuring moving him away from the massive Safeco field, to the far friendlier Rogers Centre, could only be a good thing. Or so we thought.

2015 wasn’t terrible. He hit .226/.299/.470 with 18 home runs, in 132 games, getting his best OPS mark ever and hitting slightly better than the average batter, OPS+ of 105. Maybe not the optimal performance from a first baseman, but, on a team that had the offense we had, you could live with it.

He struck out more than you would like, 26.2%, but then most of our team struck out more than you would like and we still lead the league in runs.

Then came 2016. It started well. He started the season taking walks. He had a .375 OBP at the end of April. May came and his bat heated up, hitting .309/.375/.521 for the month. All was good.

After that it went downhill:

June: .148/.246/.296

July: .216/.286/.529

August: .200/.250/.356

September: .056/.282/.056 in limited at bats.

And he was striking out a lot. 32.8% of the time.

Somewhere in there, (oh don’t be so lazy Tom, look it up) July 16 to be exact, the Jays gave him a contract extension, for a guaranteed $8.5 million, with an option year.

I have no idea why they would do that. They must have seen something that made them think he was going to start hitting and wanted to get him signed before it showed up.

He must be a heck of a nice guy, because jerks don’t get contracts like that, unless, you know, they perform well. It isn’t just sports where this happens. I’m sure those of you that work in an office know that one guy who manages to keep his job, even gets promotions, even though he isn’t the greatest of workers, but he is a heck of a nice guy.

I’ve said it before, but if I was a major league player, I’d hire Smoak’s agent. He must be part magician.

Smoak is 30 now and we still talk about his ‘potential’. He has power. When he hits a home run, it is rarely a wall scrapper. His home runs are usually crushed. Normally, that is something I look at. When Edwin Encarnacion was new to the club and wasn’t doing well, I’d say ‘yeah but when he does hit one it goes a mile, give him a chance’. Smoak....I think he has had his chance. And my chance. And likely your chance too.

This spring, Smoak hit .224/.304/.367 with 1 home run, 6 walks and 17 strikeouts. He did finish up strong, 6 for his last 15, with 3 doubles and a home run. Normally, with veteran players, that’s what I look for, finishing the spring strong. Early in the spring, I like veterans to swing the bat a lot, get their timing, not worry about walks. And Smoak did say he was changing his swing. But, I’m not hopeful.

PECOTA predicts a .235/.323/.412 batting line, with 12 home run in 333 PA. ZiPS says .230/.313/.417 with 16 home runs in 387 PA and a 27.4% strikeout rate. I’m guessing they are both high on the at bats side. I’m thinking Steve Pearce ends up playing more first base and Smoak ends up playing more late game defensive replacement.

If the Jays were to sign Angel Pagan, I’d bet on Smoak getting released at some point, maybe before the season starts. In fact, I might bet on Smoak getting released at some point either way.


Come September 1st Smoak

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Will still be a Blue Jay.
    (157 votes)
  • 70%
    Won’t be a Blue Jay.
    (381 votes)
538 votes total Vote Now