Jays From the Couch brings you the Toronto Blue Jays 2016 Highlights & Lowlights. This time: Justin Smoak
Where there’s smoke there’s fire…or not always, as many Toronto Blue Jays fans will attest. This theory is debunked fully when looking at the season that was Justin Smoak’s. A Blue Jay since being claimed off waivers in October 2014, and a free agency signing for $1M/1yr contract a day later. 2016 saw his one year contract increase to $3.9M for the year. He was given an extension this season in late July to the tune of $8.25M for two years with a $6M option for a third year with a $250K buyout.
This had many fans shaking their heads. Spencer Redmond here at JFtC looked into Smoak’s contract extension back in July where he outlined his concerns. Completely valid concerns. Are the powers that be seeing something so many of us aren’t? Or is it just plain hope?
There are some good things that happened for Smoak this season, some promising at bats. Most notably on May 3rd, against the Texas Rangers, Smoak hit the game tying solo homerun in the ninth-inning followed by the game winning two-run homerun in the tenth.
There was also the game against the Minnesota Twins on August 26, where Smoak was able to drive in five runs, the Blue Jays winning 15-8. Herein lies the problem. There isn’t a lot more to add to the Smoak highlight reel of 2016.
Justin Smoak’s stats don’t tell a story of a highly successful season, though he did show plate discipline at times and is known for his calming influence in the clubhouse. Looking at his stats for the last two years, he is holding pretty steady with his numbers, the problem comes from the fact that those numbers aren’t great. Looking at his pitch outcomes, it illustrates the difficulty he had at the plate.
Unfortunately, Smoak has seen his share of low times this season. He struggled with a batting average on the low side – .217-, and he did have a stretch where he went 0-10 with two walks and three strikeouts in September, though he only played in four of the Blue Jays’ 18 games that month. His 112 strikeouts were a three season high for him, and that just doesn’t bode well for the future. The trend is definitely going the wrong way.
The extension given to Smoak could be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to the amount of Blue Jays players who were entering the free agent market. To say his numbers aren’t great is somewhat of an understatement and the only positive so far could be his defense which, far from being stellar, is holding up his worth despite his below average offense. Perhaps a more consistent starting position and more at bats could improve those numbers and help Smoak gain the plate timing that seemed so illusive – perhaps a result of his relatively few plate appearances.
He has shown improvement when given the chance at consistent at bats, but the time for Smoak to truly become an everyday player may be a direction the Blue Jays aren’t willing to go, a theory they aren’t quite willing to give credence to. Much of Smoak’s future with the club will be dependent on what transpires in the offseason. A wait and see approach seems to be the plan for Smoak so far. Who knows what an offseason of solid plate work will bring. It looks like the Blue Jays are counting on it bringing more than what they saw this year.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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