Giving Up on Justin Smoak

Dave · June 26, 2012 at 10:37 am · Filed Under Mariners 

A month ago, Justin Smoak was on fire, hitting home runs left and right and reminding everyone that there was a reason he was once a first round pick. Since then, though, Smoak has gone right back to being the massive disappointment that we’re all familiar with, and his June has actually been even worse than his lousy April. May now seems like a distant memory. And, unfortunately, it’s getting close to the time where we might just have to admit that Justin Smoak is a bust.

Yes, he’s only 25-years-old. There is talent there, and it’s tempting to just keep rolling him out there hoping that it starts to turn into production. But, at this point, history suggests that those hopes are probably not well founded.

In the last 30 years, there have been 55 first baseman (including Smoak) who have been given 1,000+ plate appearances through their age 25 season. Every single one of them hit better than Smoak has, and we’re not just talking raw numbers that can be explained away by Safeco Field or the change in run environments. By wRC+, which accounts for both a player’s home park and the average performance of the league at the time, Smoak’s 87 is the worst of the 55 players on the list.

Travis Lee was better. Greg Colbrunn was better. Casey Kotchman was better. John Mabry was better. Conor Jackson was better. Brad Fullmer was better.

Yes, there are examples of guys who sucked early and then developed later. Erik Karros was lousy through age 26, then put together a nice five year run from 27-31, including two years where he was a legitimate all-star. Tino Martinez didn’t have his first really good year until he was 27, and then he had a nice little peak for a few years after that. Carlos Pena bounced around the league until he was 29 before turning into a monster. So, it’s not impossible that Justin Smoak will eventually become a fairly useful player.

There’s a few problems, though. The obvious one is the point we’ve already made – all of those guys were better through age 25 than Smoak, and they all produced at around an average clip before turning into above average hitters. Smoak hasn’t done that for more than a few weeks at a time. Here and there, he gives glimpses of being good, but over a consistent period of time, he’s never been more than just okay. All of those guys improved substantially, but they had long stretches earlier in their career where they were actually good. Smoak has never had a long stretch of being a good Major League hitter.

Beyond that, though, it’s worth noting that even the peaks of the guys who did improve weren’t all that great. Karros had +5 win seasons at 27 and 31, but from 28-30, he was basically an average player. Martinez had two +5 win seasons at 27 and 29, but was more of a +3 win player at 28, 30, and 31. These are the best case scenarios, and they were more solid players than stars. You wouldn’t mind having their peak years, but they weren’t franchise first baseman, and they didn’t have very long peaks even after they took a step forward.

How long does the organization want to commit to letting Smoak develop on the hope that he might be an outlier that turns into a slightly above average player in a couple of years? I mean, really, at this point, that’s the upside. That’s what you’re investing your playing time into hoping he becomes, but it’s more likely that he’s just the new Travis Lee – an underpowered first baseman who is good enough at everything to keep getting jobs but not good enough at anything to actually help anyone win. Lee hung around in the Majors through age 31, and actually had one good year himself at age 28, but his overall career was essentially a failure.

And through age 25, Lee had outhit Smoak. He walked more, struck out less, and showed about the same amount of power. Yes, the ball flew further back then, and Lee didn’t have to contend with Safeco Field, but Smoak’s a switch hitter and is supposed to have gap power that can play in a bigger ballpark. Instead, he has just three doubles all season, the lowest total of any regular in Major League Baseball. Stephen Strasburg has more doubles than Justin Smoak this year. Stephen Strasburg is a pitcher.

I’m not advocating benching Smoak just to bench him, but the team should probably start planning for alternatives at first base next year. Barring a monstrous second half, it’s probably fair to say that Smoak has played himself out of a job. The Mariners probably shouldn’t bring Justin Smoak to camp as a guy in the mix for regular playing time next year. If they think he fits as a bench guy who might work hard enough to salvage his career, then there’s probably a role for him as a pinch-hitter. If they don’t think he fits in that spot, then you make him a change-of-scenery guy and wish someone good luck in getting more out of him than the Mariners have.

For the rest of the year, what does that do to the roster from a practical standpoint? Well, if you’re taking Smoak out of the guys-who-need-to-play-everyday role, that opens up some playing time for Mike Carp once he comes back from the DL. I’m still not sold on Carp as an everyday guy in the big leagues either, but he’s shown more at the Major League level than Smoak has at least. There’s also the reality that Jesus Montero is not a catcher long term, and he’d provide more value as a guy who could play first base than if he was strictly limited to DH duties. Even if you just pitch it to him as the Mike Napoli role, rotating between C/1B/DH, that gives the team another chance to get Montero and Jaso in the line-up more regularly even if the team isn’t comfortable with them behind the plate. If the organization really believes that Mike Zunino is their catcher of the future, then getting Montero ready to play first base isn’t a bad idea. You don’t have to make him an everyday 1B, but just getting his feet wet at the position when the games don’t count will help make the conversion easier in a year or two.

For Smoak, this was a make or break year. He either needed to figure out how to make more contact or hit for more power. He’s not doing either. We’re nearly 1,200 plate appearances into the Justin Smoak experience, and at this point, I’ve lost hope that it’s going to pay off in a significant way. He can still improve, and he probably will, but is he going to improve into something that’s worth keeping around through his arbitration years? The Dodgers have been hanging onto James Loney for years, waiting for a similar breakout, and now he’s dragging down a contending offense because they’ve never bothered to go get someone better.

The Mariners should look for a better first baseman than Justin Smoak.


88 Responses to “Giving Up on Justin Smoak”

  1. Westside guy on June 26th, 2012 3:49 pm

    What are Smoak’s splits as a LHB in away games?

    I can’t figure out how to look that up. However his home/away splits are disappointing, and his L/R splits are disappointing – so (in my opinion) it’s hard to see any evidence that he’d improve substantially by sticking with one side or the other.

  2. terryoftacoma on June 26th, 2012 4:04 pm

    One thing that some tend to forget is if they add Carp to the club after rehab, someone has to go down. Smoak? Wells? Carp is out of options, so he’ll either be added or released. If you agree with Dave then sending Smoak down is an option. Of course, trading someone is an option,too.

  3. Thirteen on June 26th, 2012 4:08 pm

    How would the commentariat feel about handing a two or three year contract to Nick Swisher this offseason? He plays 1B and RF, the team’s two biggest holes going into next year. He’s a switch hitter with power and a consistent track record of 150 games per year of an .850 OPS. If Smoak isn’t looking like the guy, why not take a flier on Swish? He probably wouldn’t cost all that much, since he’s 32 and competing with Josh Hamilton in the free agent class. Worth a shot?

    Seriously, though, the Mariners have a .500-capable club on the roster with Ackley and Montero both underperforming (Ackley severely) at the plate. After what we’ve seen of the team this season, I genuinely think the Mariners are one imported #2 starter, one power-hitting 1B/OF, and three performing kids away from contention.

  4. BillyJive on June 26th, 2012 4:23 pm

    Swisher??? Yes please!

  5. SonOfZavaras on June 26th, 2012 4:39 pm

    I agree- any logical person would have to- that the numbers aren’t there for Smoak thus far, and that the lack of doubles/gap-power is the most troubling of any numbers in his line.

    But I wonder one thing when we mention so casually the possibility of Montero being the true first baseman of the future for us: he’s never played the position. At ANY level.

    More than that, the guy seems enamored with STAYING as a catcher (and to be honest, I haven’t seen him be two notches below God-awful, as he was advertised to be defensively. Johnny Bench? No. But I’d rather have Montero catch 9 innings for us than I would Miguel Olivo at this point).

    Are we so sure we even wanna broach the subject of “Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariner First Baseman”?

  6. samregens on June 26th, 2012 4:45 pm

    Could the stupid commercials be a factor? I think the Mariners PR/marketing dept. is sometimes foolish.

    They treat young players who have not earned it like stars (Jose and Yuni, Smoak, maybe even Ackley, and many other young supposedly promising players whom I’ve forgotten because they’ve completely fallen off the planet) and I think it’s bad for them.

    Young players who have just shown a promising glimpse or two, probably think they got it made (what they are doing is good enough). For example, Jose and Yuni had potential and even though scientifically it may be hard to prove, their problem seemed to be more about focus or work ethic rather than underlying physical talent.

    I don’t want to see any more commercials starring young players who haven’t earned it (although there seems to be too many fans who easily fall in love with the young flavor of the month and disparage veteran players). Just tried and true players who have a history of at least a couple years of real success in the big leagues like Felix and Ichiro now, or guys in the past like Ibanez, Edgar, Olerud, Boone, etc.

    I hope the “geniuses” in marketing don’t get the idea to have a Seager commercial next year.

  7. wilchiro on June 26th, 2012 5:26 pm

    I think the M’s have a couple of options:

    1. Make a trade – They reportedly asked KC about Billy Butler, but talks didn’t progress ( KC needs pitching and we have a plethora of arms, so I think that coming to an agreement wouldn’t be all that hard.

    2. Look for internal options – Dave states that Carp would be an upgrade over Smoak, and while I agree, I don’t believe that Carp is a long term solution. Carp has posted 0.8 WAR in 146 career games. We shouldn’t judge Carp based on his defense but his batting line would put him into a lower tier of first basemen in the MLB (.252/.325/.425 career batting line). I think a better idea would be to let Smoak finish out the season at 1B and then shift Montero over to 1B following the season. This would allow Jesus to maximize his bat while still adding value in the field (I don’t see the point in making him the youngest DH in the league). In the mean time they could give Jaso the bulk of the playing time at catcher until Zunino is ready in late 2013 or 2014.

    3. Sign a free agent – There are some enticing names in the free agent pool this winter (Pena and Napoli) but all 1B free agents are 30+ years of age and won’t be long term solutions.

    #2 is the best option in my opinion. It would allow us to keep our pitching depth in tact while tackling the issue of our future logjam at catcher.

  8. just a fan on June 26th, 2012 5:42 pm

    I ain’t givin’ up on Justin Smoak! Sure, there’s a long list of guys who aren’t very good. But it’s like being down in a 3-0 hole in a best-of-seven, or starting the year 15-30. At some point, somebody is going to comeback from those deficits.

    Most believe Smoak should’ve still been in AAA for most of 2010, right? Well, there ya go. He’s a perfect candidate since he shouldn’t have had that many ABs in the first place.

    Smoak can be the exception.

  9. Westside guy on June 26th, 2012 5:43 pm

    If Swisher were available at a reasonable cost commensurate to his value – I’d have no problems there. But I wouldn’t go past two or three years, given his age; and I’m not all that sure he’ll be available at a reasonable cost.

  10. Liam on June 26th, 2012 5:46 pm

    I don’t want to see any more commercials starring young players who haven’t earned it

    Yes, more of Jack Zduriencik talking over a man getting waxed please.

  11. samregens on June 26th, 2012 5:50 pm

    OK, I agree that was brutal.
    I wonder how the other teams go about it. Do they also have young players who’ve just wet their toes (and not showing anything spectacular yet) starring in commercials? Like Smoak punching the tree, etc.

  12. wilchiro on June 26th, 2012 5:50 pm

    In regards to Swisher, he’s went on air before saying he loves the city of Seattle and he always looks forward to playing in Safeco – you don’t hear that too often from a hitter, and a solid power hitter at that. If we inked him on a two or three year deal, I wouldn’t have any complaints.

  13. Thirteen on June 26th, 2012 5:50 pm


    My goal would be to strive for #1 this season, employ #2 in the meantime and if necessary go for #3 over the offseason.

    The Mariners would love one more young power bat, a guy who’ll be around for the future. If I’m Jack Z I’m dangling either Paxton or Walker as the centerpiece of a large package, hoping to pick up a member of a rather short list of young hitters–Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, and their ilk. In the interim, Smoak goes to AAA and Carp gets his time at 1B. Under no circumstances do I move Montero to first base, since that would seriously hurt his value and I don’t have any better options at C right now. If at the end of the season Carp and Smoak both don’t look like the answer and I wasn’t able to land one of the big bats, I dedicate a chunk of money this offseason to giving a two or three year contract to one of Pena, Berkman, Napoli, or Swisher (preferably one of the latter two).

  14. wilchiro on June 26th, 2012 6:02 pm

    I know that good offensive production out of the catcher position is rare, but we’re getting well below production out of first base right now and with Montero drawing comparisions to Miguel Cabrera with the bat, I think it makes sense to put Montero at first base and fill a hole. We’re going to have a problem with a logjam eventually with Montero and Zunino (with Zunino having more polish as a catcher), so why not give Montero some reps at 1B as that is where he could eventually end up (his value would be even more minimized at DH)?

  15. Ichirolling51 on June 26th, 2012 6:19 pm

    Since Dave wrote this article look for Smoak to have him self a 3 homer game tonight. That’s usually how it works.

  16. dantheman on June 26th, 2012 6:50 pm

    “Iwakuma is making 1.5m, its hard to call him much of a mistake.”

    An inexpensive mistake is still a mistake. And apart from the fact that he’s been basically awful – and why would anyone expect otherwise in light of his recent history – he emphasizes Wedge’s bizarre managerial preference for using a 23 or 24 man roster and letting one or two people waste away on the bench. Iwakuma is this year’s Jeff Gray – three weeks or more without being used? We have no one else in our system that could be used more than once in a month?

  17. vetted_coach on June 26th, 2012 6:59 pm

    Smoak is a waste of time. He can’t hit a major league fastball. He is actually very good defensively, but so what? That’s not what big league first basemen are for.

    Montero is much too young to give up on as a catcher, for a variety of reasons. He’s more valuable as a catcher. Zunino is still an unknown quantity.

    It is about time to assess Z’s contributions as a GM again.

    Mike Saunders could be an interesting optionn at 1B. He has the size and decent hands and feet. With Casper Wells in the mix – which he should be – Saunders could be given substancial reps at 1B. Wells has done nothing to discredit himself as a prospect every bit as talented as Saunders. Yet, for some reason, he gets none of the same respect. He hits, he catches the ball, his speed is well above average, his arm is good.

    Dave’s article is spot on, of course, but it’s not his role to include a great deal of detail about the real under-belly of the story, which is the MO of this organization.

    The Mariners rarely admit to mistakes, they rarely consider the actual field product the fans get stuck with, they lack the necessary aggression to make decisive, effective moves quickly enough during any given season.

    Ergo, Smoak will get his AB’s, Wells will be relegated to platoon status (a genuine tragedy), and the team will not come close to .500 while fans continue to pay premium prices and the likes of Sims, Mentink, and company drone on and on about the usual tripe: bobble-heads, 1995, and King Felix night.

  18. cougs129 on June 26th, 2012 10:10 pm

    I also think that it could be a swing issue that is causing Smoak’s results to be worse then the lofty expectations bestowed upon him. If you look at video of his swing now vs. his swing in the minors, it looks significantly longer presently. I think shortening the swing back to where it used to be will help close the gap between results and expectations and make him a useful player. This obviously is going to be easier said then done.

  19. MrZDevotee on June 26th, 2012 10:11 pm

    I don’t know Dave– maybe I’m missing your idea of a “significant time”, but:

    June of his first year he was 25 for 94 with 17 BB’s… and an OPS of .832.

    September, same year, he was 17 for 50, 7 BB’s, and a 1.001 OPS.

    April of his 2nd year, 21 for 74 with 14 BB’s, a .920 OPS…

    September of 2nd year, 22 for 73 with a .793 OPS.

    Not large large samples of success, but given his tiny time in the minors, sustained success for complete months in the majors has to hint at some sort of talent hidden in there somewhere… Is this a guy who can’t hit big league pitching? Or a guy helpless to make adjustments yet? (hey, “hi” to you Dustin Ackley!)

    Granted, THIS YEAR has been abyssmal for Smoak, completely and utterly.

    Where does he stand amongst all those players thru age 24, would be interesting… Since I think it’s a safe bet that this will be his worst year in the majors. Or how does he compare to those guys thru their first two seasons?

    Not defending him, mind you, just suggesting– yes, it’s too early to close the book on Justin Smoak… Probably the least reliable of the guys on that list, but not incapable of showing success over periods of 30-ish days. If he was consistently a .200 hitter with a .680 OPS, that’s one thing, but he hasn’t shown consistency in ANY WAY yet, so we have no idea at this point.

    Are you right? Probably. But it’s not a sure enough thing yet to pass him into the Mike Morse (too easy?) reject bin. One more year, I say, thanks to no real replacement (I mean, how is Carp different? Or a better MLB option?)

    2012 Mike Carp
    13 for 83 (.167) with 25K’s, a .623 OPS

    2012 Justin Smoak
    55 for 260 (.212) with 60K’s, a .612 OPS

  20. taylor.mariner on June 27th, 2012 12:04 am

    “I am a big advocate of Carp getting a shot at 1st base for the rest of the year. He did damage there last year when Smoak was hurt and actually looked decent defensively.”

    Carp is strictly a DH/PH, there is no defensive prowess with him. I’m tired of hearing about Carp, yeah it’s fun calling him Big Fish, but he hot at the end of last season and that’s all that there is to it. Putting him at first or using him as a fifth outfield wheel just fills up space for players that have true future potential.

  21. Thirteen on June 27th, 2012 1:11 am

    I don’t understand the Carp hate. The guy gets hurt, comes back early, runs a .160 BABIP for a month and gets put back on the DL to give him time to normalize the BABIP in AAA before coming back up, and suddenly everyone’s ready to give up on him? Which of Carp’s peripheral stats were you disappointed by this year? Was it his still-excellent ISO, his improved walk and strikeout rates, or his godawful unlucky BABIP?

  22. eponymous coward on June 27th, 2012 2:20 am

    given his tiny time in the minors

    It’s not “oh, Smoak didn’t have any time in the minors”. It’s “Smoak’s had over 2000 professional at-bats and hasn’t been all that good”.

    If he was consistently a .200 hitter with a .680 OPS, that’s one thing, but he hasn’t shown consistency in ANY WAY yet

    It’s not Small Sample Size Theatre when we’re talking about 2000 pro at-bats, whereas cherry-picking the periods where he’s had hot streaks IS cherry-picking- a bad hitter will have hot streaks just like a good hitter, just not as many of them

    .One more year, I say, thanks to no real replacement

    Dave’s point is that realistically, the M’s need to prioritize finding a replacement in their planning for 2013. Hope that Justin Smoak is going to outplay any realistic determination of his potential is not a plan for anything other than futility. Good organizations realize when they have a busted prospect (which happens, even if it’s a GM you adore). Bad organizations are the ones who keep throwing playing time down a dry hole.

    Incidentally, have you seen what Travis Lee’s career looks like?

    Or let’s look at Marc Newfield:

    Here’s Chris Davis:

    Seriously, go look at the guys Dave has mentioned. They’re the classic case of “busted prospect”- high draft pick, doesn’t pan out. Which, at this point, fits Smoak to a T.

    Look, busted prospects happen- sometimes it seems a bit more often to the M’s, though it probably just SEEMS that way, but whether it’s Jeremy Reed, Jose Lopez or Justin Smoak, the organization needs to recognize it and move on, not double down on a 16 against a dealer 10 and hope they spike the 5.

  23. Bryce on June 27th, 2012 6:00 am

    Why is there an extreme willingness to give Smoak opportunity after opportunity when there is simultaneously an extreme unwillingness to do the same for Carp? I’ve never quite understood this. Smoak needs to sit for awhile. Once Carp is back, let him take Smoak’s place. Then see what happens going forward.

  24. Mariners35 on June 27th, 2012 7:04 am

    It’s not “oh, Smoak didn’t have any time in the minors”. It’s “Smoak’s had over 2000 professional at-bats and hasn’t been all that good”.

    Yeah, but it’s 1200 pro ABs that have been far from contiguous. Scooping up the piles of playing time to make one big lump is not the same as evaluating a player who’s been everyday or near everyday for a couple years or somesuch. The injuries and off-field issues interrupted his playing time significantly enough, often enough, that this season is the first real look at him.

    Getting more playing time for Carp is valid, from the POV of getting some alternatives, and a longer look at Carp, and that pesky winning thing – sure would be nice not to have an automatic flyout / lineout batting 6th. But really, the arguments as presented here would work better if Smoak had near-regular playing time for the rest of the year, and then you could look at this season as a whole to get a true sense of it. Age 25, and shaking off any rookie / sophomore slumps, and being healthy, and being in the lineup every day for a full season… that makes the case a bit better than totalling up numbers for a player who’s made the equivalent of 4 or 5 cups of coffee by now…

  25. kimalanus on June 27th, 2012 11:04 am

    Am I the only one who remembers Mike Carp’s physical transformation during the off season before last? The weight and conditioning program the Mariner’s management gave him turned him from a bit doughy looking doubles hitter with flashes of power into a lean, strong hitter with consistent power (at least in his callup last season and in the PCL). Justin Smoak is a bit doughy looking and hitting for doubles with flashes of power and gobs more potential than Mike Carp ever had. I think maybe all Smoak needs is a quality weight and conditioning program over the off-season and a personal trainer (or the personal motivation) to make sure he keeps to it. Carp is the proven result of the program’s efficacy. A new and improved Smoak might actually prove to be the quality first basemen he was expected to become.

  26. djw on June 27th, 2012 11:17 am

    and hitting for doubles


  27. msfanmike on June 27th, 2012 12:51 pm

    3 doubles – in 75 games.

    That’s definitely plurality. I gotta give him that.

  28. eponymous coward on June 27th, 2012 1:19 pm

    But really, the arguments as presented here would work better if Smoak had near-regular playing time for the rest of the year, and then you could look at this season as a whole to get a true sense of it.

    You’re making a special pleading argument as to why Justin Smoak is different from every one of those 55 1B Dave linked in his post.

    It’s a fairly extreme claim: “Oh, those 1200 MLB PAs don’t really tell us anything, let’s give him (N) more.”

    So how many more? Because until season’s end we’re talking about 350 PAs or so.

    Incidentally, here’s two guys slash lines in the minors:


    One of them’s Smoak’s, one of them’s Carp’s. OK, so Smoak walked some more, but the power difference isn’t extreme (and Tacoma is a much more difficult place for a hitter than Oklahoma City or Frisco).

    I look at those minor league stat lines and I don’t go “wow, there’s a massive skill difference here”. If you want to see what someone dominating the minors looks like, here’s an example: 297/.398/.524 and called up at age 21, Prince Fielder. Smoak’s stats aren’t that good, given the sizeable age difference.

    Oh, and some more minor league comparisons?

    .309/.376/.459 Say hello to Mr. Jeremy Reed.
    .298/.340/.453 Jose Lopez

    So, given what we’ve seen so far in MLB from Smoak, and the fact that the minor league stats don’t scream “I’m going to be a STAAAAARRRR”… why do we have to give him 350 PAs until the end of the season instead of spreading those PAs around to Wells, Jaso and Carp?

  29. Slats on June 27th, 2012 3:35 pm

    Is giving up on switch-hitting an option?

  30. amnizu on June 27th, 2012 4:09 pm

    Honestly, this is a bad team this year and it is probably going to be a bad team next year without a lot of luck or a massive spending spree. So if we consider 2012 a sunk cost (pretty sad to have to do so on June 27th) what do we gain by playing Smoak or Carp at 1b the remainder of the season?

    Neither one of these guys are going to be the 1B of the future of this team. IMHO, if you’re going to bench Smoak at first you do so to groom the next long term option when the team can afford losing (2012 and probably 2013). Presently the only option I see as a long term 1B candidate would be Montero.

    To sum it up, demote Smoak if you want to give the starts at 1B to a player you think has a future (Montero or another high upside kid). Otherwise, playing Smoak at 1B is pretty much the same as playing Carp. Either player you’re giving someone a shot to keep a roster spot in 2013 rather than playing for development purposes. Neither are viewed as long term high WAR options.

  31. MrZDevotee on June 27th, 2012 4:12 pm

    “why do we have to give him 350 PAs until the end of the season instead of spreading those PAs around to Wells, Jaso and Carp?”

    Um, because none of them are long term solutions– certainly not at 1B… And Smoak presumably is (or was).

    A year from now, same problem going on I say DFA him (or “change of scenery” trade for somebody else’s failed pitching prospect– “welcome to Safeco Field tired pitched”.

    Again, I’m not defending him… I’m just not throwing in the towel yet on a guy presumed to be a potential MLB star… I’m not throwing in the towel on ANYONE 25 years old, with less tha 3 years MLB experience… Maybe we should send Montero to the minors, and Ackley, and see what some of the even younger kids can do up here?

    A 100-ish loss season is the definition of a season where you can be patient with your “best” prospects/regulars.

  32. eponymous coward on June 27th, 2012 8:10 pm

    Um, because none of them are long term solutions– certainly not at 1B… And Smoak presumably is (or was).

    Wells and Jaso are probably closer to being part of a decent 2013 Mariners team than Smoak is. Carp, OK, he’s also in the “probably not even an average 1B bucket”, but at some point the M’s roster is going to get jammed when Carp’s off the DL, assuming there’s no injury or something. Why does Smoak deserve to play over Carp? Because he got drafted higher a few years ago?

    Maybe we should send Montero to the minors, and Ackley, and see what some of the even younger kids can do up here?

    Have Montero and Ackley spent 1200 plate appearances delivering below replacement level performance in the major leagues?

    No, not so much. So… not the same.

    A 100-ish loss season is the definition of a season where you can be patient with your “best” prospects/regulars.

    The reason why teams end up with 100-ish loss seasons over and over again is screwing up on decisions and talent evaluation. There’s a great preponderance of statistical evidence that Justin Smoak never really WAS a “best” prospect, save for the fact that he got drafted high… just like Marc Newfield and Travis Lee were, and he had some OK but not impressive stats in the minors… like Jeremy Reed did.

    Here’s something to give you an idea of how much of a flop Smoak’s been:

    Justin Smoak’s lifetime MLB OPS: .680
    Willie Bloomquist’s lifetime MLB OPS: .660

    Think about that: Justin Smoak has spent 1200 MLB PAs barely outhitting Willie freakin’ Bloomquist. So projecting Smoak to be any kind of “star”, while ignoring that any reasonable comp for him did NOT go on to be a star (and even the best case scenarios were guys who were OK, but not really “stars” outside of having some flashy counting stat lines in large media markets) is an exercise in wishful thinking. At this point, you need to mark your assessment of Smoak’s potential to market, not ignore the past 1200 plate appearances.

  33. MrZDevotee on June 27th, 2012 9:03 pm

    I’m not ignoring his 1200AB’s, in fact I went into detail how for months at a time he was actually really really good… and then hellishly bad for other months of his career. I’m suggesting that most young hitters, who either succeed or don’t, have much more steady results, so I’m wary to cast Smoak aside at this point, despite the fact that he’s not the guy we were hoping he’d be. And despite the fact that if he doesn’t get better, we wasted valuable time on him. That’s what teams DO, they waste valuable time on guys they think have above average MLB potential.

    And, I’m pointing out (like my first post) that in 4 months of his first 2 1/2 full seasons (roughly 1/3 of those at bats) he produced WAY above average results… That’s not an accident, or luck. And really bad players don’t get “hot” for months at a time, multiple months, in their first two seasons. But it’s also nightmarish-ly inconsistent at this point.

    So I say wait. That’s it. Not overly optimistic. Not expecting great things at this point. Just not convinced yet that he’s a bust.

    There’s simply NO REASON to write him off yet. (And again, Jaso and Wells are not going to be the every day first basemen on this team, so you’re wasting THEIR time inserting them at 1B, when they could be developing at positions where they might actually stick.

    There’s no hurry to cast aside Smoak in my eyes until we a) trade/sign someone better, b) decide Montero is our 1B of the future, c) have someone willing to trade us something for him, based on his high draft status.

    I mean, it’s not like sticking with him given this team’s circumstances is an epic error in judgement. Or prevents some major step forward in organizational development.

    It just doesn’t. When circumstances change, THEN I’m all for changing his role with the team.

  34. eponymous coward on June 28th, 2012 7:50 am

    And again, Jaso and Wells are not going to be the every day first basemen on this team

    If Carp and Montero are playing 1B more, that means Wells and Jaso have more opportunities to be in the lineup.

    Remember Dave’s piece about how the roster’s going to get crunched for playing time once Carp’s back from his injury, so maybe Ichiro should sit more? Welllll…. Ichiro’s playing better than Smoak, and somehow “sorry, you’re a HOFer, but we need to see if Justin Smoak can improve enough to be the next Travis Lee for our 2013 team, sit down on the bench” doesn’t strike me as particularly useful for the franchise.

    There’s no hurry to cast aside Smoak in my eyes until we a) trade/sign someone better, b) decide Montero is our 1B of the future, c) have someone willing to trade us something for him, based on his high draft status.

    And Dave’s point is it’s arguably time to explore a, b and c, not wait until midseason 2013 to go “huh, we’ve given Smoak 2000 MLB plate appearances and he’s not very good, maybe we need a decent 1B”.

    I mean, it’s not like sticking with him given this team’s circumstances is an epic error in judgement. Or prevents some major step forward in organizational development.

    Part of the reason why this team has the circumstances they have is that they’ve blown talent assessment on guys like Reed, Lopez, Betancourt, Clement… and Smoak. It’s not like win-loss record isn’t at least somewhat correlated to the quality of players you put on the field, is it?

    It’s not reasonable to expect perfection from a GM when it comes to talent assessment, so giving Smoak a shot was fine, but at some point, you’re throwing good money after bad. Justin Smoak has had almost as many plate appearances as a Seattle Mariner than Chone Figgins has, and nobody’s arguing we need to give HIM another 700 PAs. At this point, we can be reasonably certain (again, Dave’s pointed out a LOT of MLB regulars, so you have to argue that Justin Smoak is on his way to a unique snowflake of a career if you want to argue that he’s going to be very good Real Soon Now) that he’s not likely to ever grade out as a good 1B. So it’s time to predicate roster moves and playing time on the assumption that it won’t happen, rather than blithely plug his name in a lineup every day until July 2013.

  35. wschroer on June 28th, 2012 3:52 pm

    Heck, I am tired of all of them – give up on all of them.

    But I think this is a bit of jumping the gun on Smoak mainly because of the 1000 plate appearances. He doesn’t have 1000 plate appearances because he was rushed up due to being a monster in the minors(with only 773 plate appearances down there) his performance in the minors was not that great. He has been accumulating big league stats because the Mariners do not have a better option at 1st base.

    Look at Nelson Cruz of the Rangers – he had over 3000 minor league at bats, and put up rather Smoakish numbers during his first year of seeing any real major league at bats at age 26(.235/.287/.384 -very close to Smoak’s performance last year at age 24). At age 28 Cruz had a breakout year and has been quite servicable ever since.

    Would a Nelson Cruz type offensive player improve the Mariner’s lineup. Oh God yes.

    Send him down and let him accumulate some ABs, or let him eat them up in the Majors because we aren’t going anywhere anyway.

    A total of about 1700 professional ABs for a big body seems to me to not be much runway to find out what you’ve got.

    Tino Martinez had 1652 minor league at bats and did not really show much until he was 27.

    I am not saying plug Smoak into 1st and just let him keep flailing, but I don’t think you will know what you have for a few more years….and the guy makes less then half a mil so fits right into the cheapskate Mariner mold. What’s the rush?

  36. Mass Confusion on June 28th, 2012 4:11 pm

    If you want to find a statistical twin to Justin Smoak at age 25, look at Kedrys Morales. The main difference was Morales had about 500 more PAs in the minors.

    Look at Nelson Cruz. Over 3000 plate appearences in the minors before a breakout season at age 27.

    Too early to ditch Smoak. He is too young and his 1000 plate appearences in the majors is more a function of the Mariner’s being a bad baseball club with no one better to play there. It really has very little to do with Smoak being ready to be all that he can be.

  37. dantheman on June 28th, 2012 6:33 pm

    Ahem. This is what a certain blogwriter wrote at the time of the acquisition of Mr. Smoak, lauding the deal: “I’ll miss Cliff very much, but this was the right trade to make, and helped our team while taking some weapons away from a frightening division rival. Don’t try to look for the bad in it, because given the circumstances, you’re not going to find a whole lot.”

    And another one bites the dust.

  38. eponymous coward on June 28th, 2012 10:12 pm

    he was rushed up due to being a monster in the minors

    .283/.401/.458 is not a monster in the minors. Lots of walks, but a very pedestrian ISO and batting average.

    If you want to find a statistical twin to Justin Smoak at age 25, look at Kedrys Morales.

    Kendrys Morales in the minors: .332/.373/.528

    So, no, not so much.

    Nelson Cruz in the minors: .297/.369/.536

    So again, no, not so much a comp.

    Again, Justin Smoak’s minor league numbers are closer to Mike Carp’s (.275/.366/.465) than Kendrys Morales’s and Nelson Cruz’s.

    He is too young

    You realize that Prince Fielder was contending for MVPs by age 25, right?

    25 is not particularly young for a good player, especially one drafted high out of college. Smoak is the same age as Carp was last year. Jose Lopez, who’s been around for forever, is only 28. Is he too young to come to any conclusions about too?

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