Perhaps the Justin Smoak ship will never arrive into port. The former #1 draft pick from South Carolina and the key ingredient of the Lee deal with the Rangers has never found a groove in the majors. And now at the age of 25, perhaps he never will. The Mariners just sent him down yesterday, their second most interesting transaction of the day.
Eric Wedge is saying all the right things. He still believes in Smoak. But should he? And it was the right move. Smoak's triple slash line is woeful at: .189/.253/.320. And after much talk about his smoothness around the bag at first, his defensive metrics are not much better. The first thought when thinking of Smoak was that his home ballpark had to be a factor. That place has to be depressing for a batter. And yeah, Smoak has hit ten of his thirteen homers this season on the road. But the overall OPS really is not that much different on the road than at home. He simply wasn't producing.
And let's also face facts: First base is a position that requires offensive production. Defense is helpful, but teams need their first basemen to be sluggers. Thinking that Smoak could have developed into that kind of batter was perhaps misplaced. His minor league slugging percentage for his career was .458. That is not exactly hitting moonshots on a regular basis.
Smoak is also a switch hitter that has been totally useless this season as a left-handed batter. His slash line batting lefty: .168/.219/.261. He has a career .620 OPS as a left-handed batter. That is not going to cut it. Should he consider switching to being only a right-handed batter? Maybe. Thirty of his 41 career homers have come while batting from the right side. But his career OPS from that side is only .689. So it is not like he is going to fare that much better.
As this observer was thinking of these things, the Fan's poor brother kept coming to mind. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and he and his family are about the biggest Gamecock fans in the world. And Justin Smoak was god-like when he played there. But the facts are the facts. To think that Justin Smoak is suddenly going to find himself after 313 games and 1,261 plate appearances just doesn't seem feasible.
The facts seem to indicate that Justin Smoak is going to go down in history (for those that may remember) as a #1 Pick that never lived up to the hype and expectation. He won't be the first. History is littered with them. And he won't be the last. If he were a shortstop, you could live with the lack of production. But he is a first baseman and he is toast.