Justin Smoak

Justin Smoak
Toronto Blue Jays – No. 14
First baseman
Born: (1986-12-05) December 5, 1986
Goose Creek, South Carolina
Bats: Switch Throws: Left
MLB debut
April 23, 2010, for the Texas Rangers
MLB statistics
(through September 1, 2018)
Batting average .234
Hits 834
Home runs 167
Runs batted in 487
Career highlights and awards

Justin Kyle Smoak (born December 5, 1986) is an American professional baseball first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball (MLB).

Smoak played baseball for Stratford High School and the University of South Carolina. He made his debut with the Texas Rangers in 2010, and was traded to the Seattle Mariners that season. He was claimed by the Blue Jays off waivers in 2014.

High school

Smoak graduated from Stratford High School in 2005, after four years of high school baseball under coach John Chalus.[1] It wasn't until his junior year that scouts began to notice his talent, as they were originally there to scout his teammate and friend, Matt Wieters.[2] He was named by ABCA, Baseball America, and Collegiate Baseball as a 2005 high school All-American.[1] He was also one of 36 high school players in the nation to play in the 2005 high school All-American baseball game, named South Carolina AAAA Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005, named co-Mr. Baseball for 2005 in South Carolina (alongside Gamecock teammate Reese Havens), made the 2004 and 2005 South Carolina AAAA All-State team, and a member of the 2005 South Carolina AAAA state championship team while with the Stratford Knights.[1] He was initially drafted by the Oakland Athletics as a 16th-round pick in 2005 upon graduation,[3] but instead attended the University of South Carolina.[1]


Smoak went on to play college baseball for the South Carolina Gamecocks for three years. After batting .303 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI, Smoak earned Freshman All-American honors.[4] He followed up with a .315 batting average, 22 home runs, and 72 RBI in his sophomore year, good enough to be tabbed as a third-team All-American.[4] For his junior year, Smoak batted .383, with 23 home runs and 72 RBI.[3] Smoak is South Carolina's all-time home run king with 62, having broken Hank Small's record of 48, which stood for over 30 years. He is also South Carolina's career leader in RBIs and walks. Smoak was a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award in 2007 and 2008.[5]

Cape Cod League and Team USA

Justin Smoak
Medal record
Men’s baseball
Representing  United States
Baseball World Cup
2009 Nettuno National team
Pan American Games
2007 Rio de Janeiro National team

In the summer of 2006, Smoak played for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod Baseball League. He led all hitters with 11 home runs, a .565 slugging percentage, and 21 extra-base hits,[6] en route to the MVP award.

In the summer of 2007, Smoak was a representative for Team USA. During the 2007 Pan American Games, Smoak struggled, hitting .190 for the tournament. He won a silver medal there, when his team lost to Cuba in the finals. Later, he competed with Team USA again in the 2007 World Port Tournament. However, he didn't fare much better, as he finished with a .208 average, though he did lead the tournament with three doubles. In all, Smoak hit .223 and had a .380 slugging percentage for Team USA over the summer.

In 2009, Smoak again represented his country in the IBAF Baseball World Cup. Smoak hit nine home runs and drove in 22 runs, and was named to the 2009 IBAF World Cup All-Tournament Team along with fellow Team USA players Terry Tiffee and Jon Weber. He was also named the 2009 Baseball World Cup's Most Valuable Player.[7] He won the USA Baseball Richard W. "Dick" Case Player of the Year Award in 2009.[8][9]

Professional career


Smoak was the 11th overall selection in the 2008 Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers.[10] USA Today commented that "getting Smoak at No. 11 may be the best-value pick of the first round."[11]

Several scouting reports wrote that Smoak's biggest strength was his ability to hit for both power and average on both sides of the plate.[4][12] Some scouts compared Smoak to fellow switch hitters Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones.[13] Smoak's defense was described by mlb.com as follows: "He's got an average arm, but it's good enough for first base... He's not bad around the base with good hands.... The lack of footspeed and heavy lower half provide very limited range."[14][12][15] Baseball America wrote that, as a first baseman, Smoak had "Gold Glove-caliber actions and soft hands", as well as "advanced footwork and instincts at first base", though they wrote that he had merely adequate arm strength.[4] As to his running speed, mlb.com wrote: "He's below average, with heavy legs. He's a bit stiff and knock-kneed."[14]

Texas Rangers

Smoak did not sign a professional contract until 15 minutes before MLB's deadline for teams to sign draft picks, with Texas general manager Jon Daniels saying: "This is a day we would have liked to have seen happen two months ago, but we think 10 or 15 years from now that will be irrelevant."[16] The Rangers gave Smoak a $3.5 million signing bonus and assigned him to one of their Class-A affiliates, the Clinton Lumberkings.[17]

Smoak began play in the 2009 season for the Class AA Frisco RoughRiders. He was promoted on July 8, 2009 to the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks.[18] Smoak entered 2010 ranked among the best prospects in baseball.[19]

Smoak was called up by the Rangers on April 22, 2010, and made his Major League debut the following evening in a game against the Detroit Tigers. [20] He recorded his first hit on April 26, against the Tigers. Smoak set a franchise record by drawing at least one walk in each of his first four games. Smoak got his first Major League home run against the White Sox on April 29 off Gavin Floyd, and hit his first home run while batting right-handed on May 3, against Oakland off Jerry Blevins. On June 13, playing in Milwaukee, Smoak became the first player in Rangers history to strike out five times in a nine-inning game. In 2010 for Texas, he batted .209/.316/.353.

Seattle Mariners

On July 9, 2010, Smoak was traded to the Seattle Mariners with prospects Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson, for Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe.[21] Smoak was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma on July 31. He returned to the Mariners on September 18 and batted .340 with three home runs in the final 14 games of his rookie season. Former Seattle SuperSonics announcer Kevin Calabro gave him the nickname "The Freak From Goose Creek". In 2010, he batted .239/.287/.407 for Seattle, with five home runs and 14 RBI.[22] In 2011, Smoak appeared in 123 games and hit .234 with 15 home runs and 55 RBI.[22]

On July 23, 2012, Smoak was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, after his batting average dropped down to .189 in the middle of a 1-for-25 slump. A few weeks later he was brought back up to the Mariners due to an injury to first baseman Mike Carp.[23] In 2012, he batted .217/.290/.364 with 19 home runs and 51 RBI in 132 games played.[22] Smoak hit 20 home runs in 131 games played during the 2013 campaign.[22] In 2014, his final season in Seattle, Smoak batted .202 with seven home runs and 30 RBI in 80 games.[22]

Toronto Blue Jays

On October 28, 2014, the Toronto Blue Jays claimed Smoak off of waivers.[24] On December 2, Smoak was non-tendered by the Blue Jays, making him a free agent. One day later, they re-signed him to a one-year, $1 million contract for the 2015 season.[25] He made his debut with Toronto on Opening Day, as a defensive replacement for Edwin Encarnación. On April 22, 2015, Smoak set the all-time record for most plate appearances without hitting a triple to open a career.[26] He extended the record to 2,317 plate appearances, before hitting his first career triple on June 12, against the Boston Red Sox.[27] In a game at Yankee Stadium on August 8, Smoak hit his first career grand slam, and also became the first Blue Jay to hit a grand slam against the Yankees at their home field.[28] He split time at first base for most of the 2015 season with Chris Colabello. In 132 games, Smoak batted .226 with 18 home runs and a career-high 59 RBI.[22] From 2010-15, his defense was below-average for a major league first baseman, as measured by UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and DRS (Defensive Runs Saved).[29][30]

Smoak signed a one-year, $3.9 million contract for the 2016 season with the Blue Jays on December 2, 2015.[31] He changed his uniform number from 13 back to 14, which he had vacated for David Price. On April 5, 2016, he stole his first base in 433 games.[32] On May 3, Smoak hit a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and in the tenth inning, hit a walk-off two-run home run to defeat the Texas Rangers 3–1.[33] On July 16, Smoak signed a two-year, $8.25 million extension with the Blue Jays that included a $6 million option for a third year, with a $250,000 buyout.[34] He had an 0-for-29 slump with runners in scoring position, one at bat short of the team's all-time record for the longest hitless streak with runners in scoring position.[32] Smoak played in 126 games for the Blue Jays in 2016, and hit .217/.314/.391 with 14 home runs and 34 RBI.[22] He struck out 112 times in 341 plate appearances; his 32.8% strikeout rate was the 6th-highest in major league baseball for players with at least 330 plate appearances.[35][36]

He was included on the team's Wild Card and Division Series rosters, but was left off the Championship Series roster.[37] On October 15, Smoak was added to Toronto's ALCS roster after Devon Travis was removed due to injury.[38]

In 2017, Smoak was voted as the American League starting first baseman for the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Miami. At the time of the announcement, Smoak had a .303 batting average and 22 home runs, both of which were career highs.[39] On August 25, Smoak hit his 35th home run of the season, and broke José Cruz Jr.'s franchise record for home runs in a single season by a switch-hitter.[40] Smoak ended the 2017 season as the Blue Jays' leader in both home runs (38) and RBIs (90).

Smoak struggled to match his 2017 offensive numbers the following season. On August 20, 2018, Smoak cleared revocable waivers ahead of the August 31 trade deadline, fueling speculation that he was about to be moved.[41] At that time he was hitting .255 with 18 home runs and 60 RBI's in 116 games with Toronto.

Personal life

In November 2010, Justin married his high school sweetheart, Kristin Bevacqua. They have two daughters, Sutton and Berkleigh [42] In April 2011, Smoak's father, with whom he had been very close, died of cancer.[43]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Player Bio: Justin Smoak - SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS". Gamecocksonline.cstv.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  2. Emerson, Seth (June 5, 2008). "For Smoak, the final step". thestate.com. Archived from the original on June 8, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  3. 1 2 yahoo.com MLB draft preview
  4. 1 2 3 4 "First Round Recap". baseballamerica.com. June 5, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  5. "Justin Smoak & Reese Havens Named Semifinalists For 2008 Golden Spikes Award". CSTV. May 20, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  6. "This Week in the Cape League". capecodbaseball.org. August 29, 2006. Archived from the original on November 9, 2006. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  7. "Team USA Wins 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup, Beats Cuba 10-5". Major League Baseball. September 27, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  8. "Reese McGuire Wins USA Baseball Player of the Year Award". Baseball America. Archived from the original on July 4, 2015.
  9. "USA Baseball names year-end award winners". usabaseball.com. Archived from the original on July 5, 2015.
  10. "mlb.com draft tracker". Mlb.mlb.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  11. "Justin Smoak". USA Todaydate=. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  12. 1 2 "mlb.com draft preview". Mlb.mlb.com. April 17, 2007. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  13. Grant, Evan (June 5, 2008). "Rangers' draft mood goes up in Smoak". Dallas Morning News. dallasnews.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  14. 1 2 Draft: 2008 DraftTracker | MLB.com
  15. Callis, Jim (February 11, 2008). "baseball-america 2008 draft preview". Baseballamerica.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  16. Rangers introduce first-rounder Smoak - USATODAY.com
  17. The Interview Vault: Justin Smoak – The LumberBlog
  18. "Smoak promoted to Rangers' Triple-A affiliate | Sports | Our Gazette | South Carolina". Our Gazette. July 8, 2009. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  19. John Manuel; Baseball America (December 23, 2009). "MLB's Top 20 prospects include Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward - MLB - SI.com". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  20. Evan Grant / Blogger. "Rangers recall Justin Smoak, option Chris Davis to Oklahoma City | Texas Rangers Blog | Sports News | News for Dallas, Texas | The Dallas Morning News". dallasnews.com. Archived from the original on June 29, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  21. T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com (June 29, 2010). "Rangers acquire Lee from Mariners | MLB.com: News". mlb.com. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Justin Smoak Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  23. Justin Smoak rejoins the Mariners as Mike Carp heads to the disabled list | MLB.com
  24. "Justin Smoak claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays". The Seattle Times. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  25. "Blue Jays sign Justin Smoak". ESPN.com. Associated Press. December 3, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  26. "Minor Leaguer on Twitter". Twitter. April 22, 2015. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
  27. Baer, Bill (June 12, 2015). "Justin Smoak hit his first career triple after 2,317 plate appearances". hardballtak.nbcsports.com. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
  28. McCarron, Anthony (August 8, 2015). "Ivan Nova gives up grand slam to Justin Smoak in 6th as Blue Jays blank the Yankees 6-0". nydailynews.com. Retrieved August 8, 2015.
  29. The First Base Platoon: Justin Smoak - Bluebird Banter
  30. Blue Jays off-season shuffle: Where does Justin Smoak fit? | FOX Sports
  31. "Blue Jays sign first baseman Justin Smoak to one-year deal". Sportsnet. December 2, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  32. 1 2 Justin Smoak Stats, Fantasy & News | MLB.com
  33. Chisholm, Gregor; Ravjiani, Alykhan (May 3, 2016). "Smoak Show: Dramatic HRs pace walk-off win". MLB.com. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  34. Davidi, Shi (July 16, 2016). "Blue Jays sign Justin Smoak to two-year extension". Sportsnet. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  35. Blue Jays first base options not named Justin Smoak
  36. Justin Smoak - Blue Jays 1B - CBSSports.com
  37. Chisholm, Gregor (October 14, 2016). "Liriano, Travis included on Blue Jays' ALCS roster". MLB.com. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  38. "Blue Jays replace Travis with Smoak on ALCS roster". Sportsnet. October 15, 2016. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  39. "Blue Jays' Justin Smoak to make 1st all-star appearance". cbc.ca. July 2, 2017. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  40. "Justin Smoak sets Blue Jays record for HRs by switch-hitter". Sportsnet. August 25, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  41. Sherman, Joel (August 20, 2018). "The only bats Yankees could get are not that enticing". nypost.com. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  42. "Justin Smoak showing signs of promise for the Seattle Mariners". seattletimes.nwsource.com. April 2, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  43. Baker, Geoff (May 2, 2011). "Justin Smoak faces big adjustment with death of his confidant father". seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
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