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Friday, May 19, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: JUSTIN SMOAK 1B TORONTO BLUE JAYS

While you may not be able to teach and old dog new tricks, we have learned during the 2017 fantasy baseball season that you can teach veteran hitters some new approaches at the dish.  Such is the scenario enveloping not only the Oakland A's Yonder Alonso but now we might be able add the Toronto Blue Jays' Justin Smoak to that grouping by the looks of it.  Smoak has been a terrific early story as he goes into Friday's action with the following high-impact numbers:

.280
9 HR
20 R
27 RBI
0 SB

While not earth-shattering, Smoak has been particularly hot of late and he is has been the most helpful slugger on the Blue Jays this season; a class that includes Kendrys Morales and Jose Bautista.  While it seems like Smoak has been around forever, he is still just 30-year-old and also don't forget that Smoak was originally the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft.  Having been considered a prime power prospect first with the Texas Rangers and then with the Seattle Mariners, Smoak unfortunately couldn't handle breaking pitches and proceeded to reel off season-after-season of .220 averages across-the-board letdown numbers.  He found some new life with the Blue Jays starting in 2015 however but primarily played a part-time role.  2017 has been a different story though as Smoak has made some tremendous strides with his advanced hitting numbers as we will discuss.

First off, Smoak has perennially been a very high strikeout hitter which has led to him being just a .226 hitter in his career.  Smoak's K/9 rate has been a decent problem for him, in particular from 2015 and 2016 when he put up sky-high 26.2 and 32.8 marks respectively.  However in 2017 Smoak has that number down to just 19.2 percent and that is why he is hitting .280 as May gets closer to its completion.  .280 for Smoak is like .320 for any other hitter and he is laying off pitches out of the zone better then ever before.  Clearly whatever Smoak did during the winter to change his approach is working and the numbers bear this out.  Smoak is also still walking at a good 8.9 BB/9 clip and so that too helps his average.  So when Smoak does get his pitch to hit, he drives it with authority given his still very potent power.

When you put it all together, Justin Smoak can be grouped with Yonder Alonso as previously ugly fantasy baseball first baseman who are now fulfilling some of their first round promise with mid-career adjustments.  While we can't guarantee this will last, Smoak at the very least should be used on a daily basis if/when things to off the rails again.


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