Justin Smoak, to me, has always been “that dude the Mariners got when they traded Cliff Lee to the Rangers” back in 2010.
Smoak was the big name coming back from Texas, and all I remember about Smoak was how everyone was drooling over his power potential. A first-round draft pick, 11th overall, had the all-time home run record for the South Carolina Gamecocks in college, and won an MVP in the Cape Cod League — there was a lot to like. Then he began his major league career.
Coming into the 2016 season, Smoak had been a career .224 hitter with a .699 OPS, which is certainly a disappointment, considering how decorated of an athlete he was prior to his big league career. This year, though, the 29-year-old is playing well above what we’re used to seeing from him offensively as a major league player, but it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the type of player he had been leading up to becoming a big leaguer.
On Tuesday night, Smoak homered in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game against the team who traded him away to Seattle six years earlier (pitcher knew it right away, too), and then followed that up with a walk-off home run an inning later to even the four-game series up at a game apiece. Smoak’s three-hit, two-homer night boosted his OPS on the season to .843 through his first 24 games, which is 141 points higher than his career OPS. Is it a hot start? Did he figure something out? For Blue Jays fans’ sake, hopefully he figured something out, because Toronto’s feared lineup of baseball mashers haven’t been mashing very many baseballs this year, as they’re 18th in the MLB in slugging percentage (.393).