Justin Smoak
Justin Smoak
31-Year-Old First Baseman1B
Toronto Blue Jays
2018 Fantasy Outlook
Smoak, long considered a bust as a first-round pick, went off for a career-high 38 home runs last season, and it's rather difficult to poke holes in his performance. In his age-30 campaign, Smoak trimmed his strikeout rate by more than 11 percentage points (to 20.1 percent) while adding 138 points to his slugging percentage (.529 SLG). As Smoak explained to Travis Sawchik of FanGraphs, he learned to lay off more pitches outside the strike zone -- particularly the curveball -- and was better at making contact with pitches out of the zone when he did swing at them. While Smoak's batting average fell to .241 in the second half, he improved his walk rate considerably after the break (from 9.3 percent to 13.8 percent) while maintaining a strikeout rate right around 20 percent. He hit from both sides of the plate and his home/road splits were marginal. Playing time concerns are justified, but we're buying into Smoak's development as a player. Read Past Outlooks
RANKSFrom Preseason
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$Signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Blue Jays in December of 2014.
On bench for series opener
1BToronto Blue Jays
September 17, 2018
Smoak is not in the lineup Monday against the Orioles.
Smoak will hit the bench for the third time in the last six games as rookie Rowdy Tellez picks up another start at first base in his stead. With the Blue Jays out of the playoff picture, the team seems determined to give younger players at-bats down the stretch, leaving fewer opportunities for Smoak.
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Batting Stats
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Minor League Game Log
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Left/Right Batting Splits
Since 2016
Since 2016vs Left .773 422 36 15 45 1 .263 .344 .429
Since 2016vs Right .840 1123 146 61 154 0 .246 .346 .493
2018vs Left .695 184 10 5 18 0 .239 .321 .374
2018vs Right .883 383 54 19 57 0 .253 .371 .513
2017vs Left .977 143 16 7 18 0 .331 .413 .565
2017vs Right .856 494 69 31 72 0 .252 .338 .518
2016vs Left .621 95 10 3 9 1 .209 .284 .337
2016vs Right .738 246 23 11 25 0 .221 .325 .413
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Home/Away Batting Splits
Since 2016
OPS at Home
OPS on Road
OPS at Home
OPS at Home
Since 2016Home .826 796 101 39 105 0 .251 .349 .477
Since 2016Away .816 749 81 37 94 1 .249 .342 .474
2018Home .799 291 33 10 37 0 .247 .354 .445
2018Away .842 276 31 14 38 0 .250 .355 .487
2017Home .892 318 44 19 47 0 .271 .362 .531
2017Away .874 319 41 19 43 0 .269 .348 .527
2016Home .754 187 24 10 21 0 .226 .321 .433
2016Away .646 154 9 4 13 1 .207 .305 .341
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Stat Review
How does Justin Smoak compare to other hitters?
This section compares his stats with all batting seasons from the previous three seasons (minimum 400 plate appearances). The bar represents the player's percentile rank. For example, if the bar is halfway across, then the player falls into the 50th percentile for that stat and it would be considered average.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Smoak looked primed for a big 2016 when platoon-mate Chris Colabello was suspended in April for violating the league's substance abuse policy. However, Smoak couldn't capitalize on the opportunity and found himself regularly sitting on the bench by season's end. He had a strong May (.309 with five homers), but hit just .176 with nine home runs in the other five months combined. The first baseman struggled so much that manager John Gibbons reluctantly moved the defensively-challenged Edwin Encarnacion from DH to an everyday job in the field. Smoak's 32.8 percent strikeout rate was the sixth highest in all of MLB for players with at least 330 plate appearances. Steve Pearce will start against lefties and Rowdy Tellez, one of the Jays' top prospects, could give Smoak a run for his money by midseason.
After a disastrous 2014 season, Smoak found new digs north of the border and put together a strong season. While a sub-.300 on-base percentage is less than ideal, Smoak is an excellent defender at first base and provides a nice platoon bat. Chris Colabello came out of nowhere and finding him at-bats became increasingly difficult due to Smoak’s strong play. Smoak, Colabello and Edwin Encarnacion should split time at first base and designated hitter, though Smoak may end up seeing the shortest end of that stick. His defense and switch-hitting abilities will find him as a late-inning replacement, particularly when Encarnacion is manning first, but is the worst hitter of their three options.
Smoak, the centerpiece of the return package from the Rangers for Cliff Lee in 2010, hit just .224/.309/.380 with 66 homers in parts of five seasons with the Mariners. Seattle finally gave up on him last season, and he was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays in October. He posted a career-low .614 OPS in 80 games with the Mariners in 2014, but he'll at least provide Toronto with some depth and could make a run at semi-regular playing time, with Adam Lind shipped off to Milwaukee in the offseason.
With nearly 2,000 major-league plate appearances, it's probably time to just accept Smoak for what he is –- a streaky, low-average hitter with a bit of power who struggles with contact and can't hit lefties despite switch-hitting. His batting average likely will always be feeble as long as his contract rate remains in the mid-70s (74 percent last season). He has home-run power but last year's .412 slugging percentage was a career high. His hot streaks, such as the one he went on last year after he came off the disabled list, are usually propelled by inflated BABIP and flyball rates that eventually normalize. Sure, he can draw some walks, but he's useless against lefties (.192/.274/.548 last season). Perhaps the Rangers knew what they were doing when they traded him to the Mariners in 2010 for Cliff Lee.
Smoak entered last season needing to prove he was the long-term answer at first base for the Mariners. He spent most of the season, though, just trying to prove he was better than the Mendoza Line. The Mariners finally had enough by late July and sent him to Triple-A with a .189 average. He returned in mid-August with a shortened swing and finished the season with a flourish, hitting .394 with a 1.177 OPS and five homers in his final 18 games. It was an encouraging finish, but it wasn't the only time he got hot last year. In fact, he looked like he had found his swing with a month-long hot streak early in the season only to then slump to a .394 OPS (not a misprint) in the 39 games before his demotion. Ultimately, Smoak did not prove what he needed to last season, and the Mariners appear to have given up on him, acquiring Kendrys Morales to handle the bulk of first-base duty and Mike Morse, who can back up first if needed. Smoak is headed back to Triple-A if he isn't traded.
After a promising start to the season, Smoak's 2011 turned rocky by early summer. He struggled through July, watching his average drop nearly 50 points from its late-June high of .264. He played only three games in August because of separate injuries. And all that came after his father passed away earlier in the year. Instead of solidifying his spot in the middle of the lineup, Smoak still has questions to answer. The Mariners are in the market for more power, but if they sign a first baseman, Smoak likely would be kept around as the DH. Either way, Smoak has something to prove in 2012.
Smoak was the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal last season, heading to Seattle with the opportunity to be a middle-of-the-order power bat and first baseman for the foreseeable future. He struggled at times with Texas after his callup, and then the Mariners sent him to Triple-A after a .439 OPS in 16 games. He returned in mid-September and warmed up over the final 10 games with 15 hits, three doubles, three homers, nine RBI and seven walks. If he can carry that over to 2011, he'll be in fine shape. If not, he'll have plenty of time to figure things out as he has first base all to himself.
Smoak struggled at Triple-A Oklahoma City, hitting just .244/.363/.360 in 197 at-bats following a decent showing at Double-A Frisco (.326/.450/.483 in 178 at-bats). He continues to show an excellent batting eye, drawing 52 walks and fanning just 55 times in 375 at-bats on the season. The lack of power is a tad troubling, though we'll give him another go at Triple-A Oklahoma City before we get too concerned. Where he fits in behind Chris Davis once he arrives in Texas will largely depend on how each player progresses over the next 12-18 months.
Smoak draw comparisons to Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira after being a first-round pick in June, and his brief pro debut (.304/.355/.518 in 56 at-bats) at Low-A Clinton was solid after agreeing to terms right at the deadline in early August. His AFL campaign was solid as well, and he should see time at Double-A Frisco by year's end. Where he fits long-term with Chris Davis at first base remains to be seen, but it's a nice problem to have.
More Fantasy News
Remains on bench Friday
1BToronto Blue Jays
September 14, 2018
Smoak is not in the lineup for Friday's game against the Yankees, Hazel Mae of Sportsnet reports.
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Not starting Wednesday
1BToronto Blue Jays
September 12, 2018
Smoak is not starting Wednesday against the Red Sox, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports.
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Goes yard in Sunday's win
1BToronto Blue Jays
September 9, 2018
Smoak went 2-for-4 while hitting his 24th home run of the season and driving in three runs in Sunday's 6-2 win over Cleveland.
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Not in Saturday's lineup
1BToronto Blue Jays
September 8, 2018
Smoak is out of the lineup against Cleveland on Saturday, Hazel Mae of Sportsnet.ca reports.
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Day off Thursday
1BToronto Blue Jays
September 6, 2018
Smoak is not in the lineup against the Indians on Thursday, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports.
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