It would be a monumental understatement to say that first baseman Justin Smoak has been a disappointment. Smoak was the prize return for the Seattle Mariners in the trade that sent LHP Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers.
During his three seasons with the Mariners, Smoak has hit for an average of .223 with only 39 home runs in 285 total games. I have written previously that this is a make-or-break season for Smoak, and so far he has taken advantage of what is most likely his last chance to prove to the organization that he can be a valuable asset.
So far this spring Smoak has hit the ball very well, posting a batting average of .431 with 12 extra-base hits in 57 plate appearances.
“A lot of work went into last year and this offseason, and I feel like I’m where I want to be and I’ve got to keep on putting the work in to get that feeling day in and day out,” Smoak told Mariners.com.
“I feel like I have a better understanding of what I need to do, and that’s something I haven’t had the last couple of years,” Smoak said. “I’ve got to just stick to the plan.”
Smoak has shown a lot of progress this spring, but spring training stats don’t really mean a whole lot. He will have to prove to manager Eric Wedge that he has value in the lineup, because Wedge has plenty of other options at first base like: Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez.
Also, if top prospect Mike Zunino shows that he is ready come up to the MLB and play catcher, they will have the flexibility to move Jesus Montero to first base.
For now it’s Smoak’s job to lose and hopefully he will take advantage of this final opportunity by continuing his hot hitting into the regular season.