The Seattle Mariners have to make a decision in regards to Justin Smoak sometime soon. At age 26, Smoak can no longer be considered a prospect. As the prize return in the 2010 trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers, to say that Smoak has been a bust would be a monumental understatement.
Going into his third full season with the Mariners, Smoak has a lot to prove to Manager Eric Wedge and the front office. “I have every anticipation he’s going to be our first baseman this year. Now, if he shows us something different, then so be it. But he’s coming in as our first baseman, and I expect him to take that and run with it.” Said Wedge in late January.
Wedge has been known to give a struggling player a second chance, as we saw last year when Chone Figgins was given a shot to hit leadoff and play third base. Figgins hit .181 in 66 games, primarily hitting at the top of the order. With Figgins no longer on the roster, the title of the biggest bust now goes to Smoak.
Contact has been a major problem during Smoak’s tenure in Seattle, averaging 142 punch-outs per 162 games, about once every 5 at bats. To put that in perspective, Josh Hamilton, notably a free-swinger, strikes out at a similar rate for his career, but Hamilton has a slugging% of .577, compared to Smoak’s career mark of .377.
In 2012, Smoak hit .217/.290/.364, compared to the .234 /.323 /.396 (AVG/OBP/SLG) he hit in an injury-riddled 2011 season. Basically, bouncing back from a season where he suffered a concussion, dealt with the loss of his father and played most of the season with a broken thumb, Smoak managed to regress statistically.
With options like Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Mike Carp and Mike Morse at 1B/DH Justin Smoak will have to prove a lot to keep his job throughout the spring.