Last year, I gave you five endgame options that might have—depending on your league structure—cost you a buck. Three of them panned out: Jose Altuve was about the only sight to behold on the Astros; Mike Minor cemented himself in the long-term plans of the Braves with a stellar season; and Mike Aviles flaunted his underrated power-speed combination for the cost of a McDouble. Two of them panned: John Mayberry was a tease that wouldn’t stop teasing, and Mat Gamel blew out his knee. I’ll go five for five this year.
|Less swinging and missing this year. (Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports/US Presswire)|
Remember when Justin Smoak was traded for Cliff Lee? Yes, this actually happened.
Remember that time Justin Smoak hit .240 in the majors? I sure don’t!
Remember Justin Smoak ‘s final line last year? Ryan Howard could do better with one Achilles.
If Justin Smoak is to you a running joke, I must ask you to reconsider. I understand his track record is far from shiny—three years has gone so fast, and he’s proven himself to be a 20-homer, batting average sucking black hole at one of the deepest positions in the fantasy sphere. But if you slept through last September, I’m finally waking you up. Justin Smoak’s a changed man; a hitting machine; an artist at the plate; and a bell-ringer in the spring.
Perhaps this is a foolhardy analysis, but my theory is that Justin Smoak learned patience in the fall of last year. His swing percentage outside the zone (23.4 percent) was more than three percent below his career average; he also struck out at roughly half (11.5 percent) his career rate in September. What might have caused this? Your guess is as good as mine…if your guess is “demotion.”
I don’t know what changed him in Tacoma—it doesn’t exactly scream “life-altering vacation”—but I know he was walking like a madman on the farm, and upon return, was indeed a more patient fellow at the plate. He smashed five homers in a month, hit like Willie Mays, and even decided to act like a plus fielder for a brief period.
Chalk him up for 20 or 25 home runs this year, and forget the crowd of powerful bats taking Safeco this year: Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Jesus Montero, and Young Justin can all reasonably fit on the field, smashing long balls, smashing away.