In this edition of Brewers Past and Present, we are focusing on the present! Justin Smoak was signed via free agency to fill the void at first base. Before Brewers’ fans got to see what he could contribute this year, the season was postponed due to COVID-19. Here, we will take a look at his career prior to signing with the Brewers and predict what his impact could be going forward.
The Early Years: Texas/Seattle
Justin Smoak was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 16th round of the 2005 amateur draft. However, he did not sign and was later drafted 11th overall in 2008 by the Texas Rangers. Smoak made his debut with the Rangers in 2010, but was traded midway through the season. The Seattle Mariners acquired Smoak and several other players in exchange for Cliff Lee.
Smoak spent four and half seasons with Seattle with limited success. He hit 20 home runs just once (2013) and struggled to get on base. He finished his time in Seattle with a slash line of .226/.308/.384 with 66 home runs and 200 RBI.
Stable Years: Toronto
Justin Smoak signed with the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of the 2015 season. His first two seasons in Toronto were all too similar to his seasons in Seattle. He struggled to find his power stroke and did not get on base often.
In 2017, though, Smoak had a career year. He had a slash line of .270/.355/.529 with 38 home runs and 90 RBI. He also made his first, and only, All-Star team that season. In the two seasons since, his batting average has fallen, but he has hit 22 or more home runs in each campaign. He ended his five seasons in Toronto with a slash line of .237/.338/.429 with 117 home runs and 321 RBI.
Possibilities in Milwaukee
The Brewers signed Justin Smoak to a one-year $4 million contract. The deal includes a club option for 2021 that is worth $5.5 million with a $1 million buyout. Smoak was expected to compete for the first base job with Ryon Healy, Logan Morrison, and Ryan Braun.
When Spring Training was called off and the season postponed, Smoak was hitting .238/.292/.238 with no home runs and just one RBI. It would be interesting to see, though, how his game would translate to Miller Park. Smoak is a switch hitter. Miller Park is perfectly suited for left-handed hitters, so Smoak will be able to take advantage of that. In a simulation powered by OOTP21, Smoak would be hitting .221/.322/.456 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI at this point in the season. These numbers put him on pace for a 30-home run and 100-RBI season.
Predicting Smoak’s impact on the Brewers beyond this or other simulations seems futile at this point. It is everyone’s hope that fans will be able to see some kind of season at all. If the players and owners can work out an agreement, Justin Smoak will certainly be a name to watch going forward.
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