No everyone, your eyes are not deceiving you. The legend himself, Justin Smoak, has finally arrived.
Technically he arrived to the Seattle Mariners in 2010. But anyone who lives near the state of Washington is likely aware of how he has done since joining the organization.
Justin Smoak has shown glimpses of the highly touted prospect he was supposed to be, but never kept it going. One would say he lacks consistency, but he was actually very consistently terrible.
However, I truly believe the young man has come into his own since returning from the disabled list. And the numbers show it.
This isn’t the first time Smoak has hit a streak. Last season, Smokey was sent down to AAA Tacoma in late July following another length of porous performances. Before the option, he was hitting .189 with an OBP of .253 and .320 slugging.
He was recalled in mid-August, but still found his struggles at the plate — he hit .196 with .288 OBP and .294 SLG for the month. Trade talks arose, and the fanbase had given up on the 25-year-old.
“The trade” was a failure. There was no defending it. Smoak was a bust — enter September…
Just when you think he’s out, Smoak bounces back with an incredible September performance, hitting .338 with a .414 OBP and .584 SLG. Giving the fanbase hope, and the organization just enough evidence that there just may be something to the kid. So what makes this stint any different?
The Brass Tacks
When you look at the numbers, there isn’t much of a variation from his September showing. Since the reinstatement, Smoak is hitting .316 with a .397 OBP and .582 slugging.
If you want to see a difference from the two stints statistically, you aren’t going to find it. However, you can see it when he plays. His issues have always come down to the longevity of his swing. He was hyped as a switch-hitting powerhouse, yet never could get the barrel around to show any glimpse of strength through the ball.
Not only has he increased his bat speed, but his timing is impeccable as well. He has found the barrel on the ball from both sides of the plate, and the pitches he was once late on and spiked to the short stop are now being driven into left field.
The high fastballs that would be shallow pop-ups are being met with a quicker bat and landing in outfield gaps, or even the stands. He is hitting with confidence, and he isn’t hitting against just anyone.
The pitching staffs the M’s have faced during Smoaks’ explosion are no scrubs. He has hit against the Pirates, A’s, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox. All of which are near the top of the list in team pitching statistics.
What Does this Mean?
So yes, Smoak has done this before. He has had his hot streaks, and then snapped them with long, ugly, arctic streaks. But this time is different.
He isn’t hitting fourth or fifth in the lineup anymore. He isn’t being forced to produce power and lead these young players to a playoff push. He is simply a role player, and he is developing.
Smoak is playing a great defensive first base and batting solid at the sixth or seventh position. Will he climb up the order if he keeps this up? There’s a possibility. I hope not, but there is that possibility.
The beauty of it all is that the other young guns are giving the team so much hype, ol’ Smokey can just relax and focus on his game. Better himself, therefore bettering the team.
The M’s are coming off of their first sweep of the season – and against the Angels, nonetheless. They now head in to the all-star break with a dangerous group of young, confident hitters who are hungry for that next step.
The only that remains is: Will they take it?