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Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT BUST: JUSTIN SMOAK 1B TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me twice shame on me.  This tried-and-true premise looks to be reserved for anyone interested in drafting Toronto Blue Jays slugging first baseman Justin Smoak for 2018 fantasy baseball and this is especially true after what looked to be a big breakout campaign from the former first-round pick and much-lauded prospect just the year prior.  By now the story of Smoak is well-worn as the former 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft was once traded for Cy Young-winning pitcher Cliff Lee and who was deemed the next great first base slugger by anyone who saw him rise through the minor league ranks.  Well as so often happens, the hype failed to meet the actual production and soon Smoak was putting up a string of .220-hitting seasons whether he was playing in Seattle with the Mariners or with the Blue Jays.  Even as recently as 2016, Smoak was forced into part-time duty mostly versus lefty pitching as his bat continued to lag (.217 with 14 home runs in 341 at-bats).  Be that as it may, Smoak was given another chance by the Blue Jays in 2017 and the rest as they say is history as he went on to put up tremendous overall offensive numbers to the tune of:

.270
38 HR
95 RBI
85 R
0 SB

Having always possessed big-time power, Smoak really showed off that skill last season as his career-high 637 at-bats helped in the cause.  What really helped Smoak as well was a new contact-driven approach that helped him drastically shave his previously gross 32.8 K/9 in 2016 all the way down to just 20.1 a year ago.  Throw in a 11.5 BB/9 rate that was very good and Smoak for once was not an average killer.  So all seems right now correct?  I mean the talent was always there, Smoak is striking out less, and playing with confidence so he should be safe for investment this season right?  Not so fast Jack.

Digging into the numbers a bit more, there is still some major cause for concern here.  While Smoak was hot as a pistol during the first half of the season (.294, 23 HR,), he was actually back to being the pre-2017 ugly slugger in the second half (.241, 15 HR).  Opposing pitchers found some new holes in Smoak's swing and his K/9 rose.  So in actuality, we still only have one single half of Smoak performing like a guy worthy of daily usage in fantasy baseball and the rest is all garbage.  Not enough of a sample size to recommend him as anything more than a UTIL or CI this season.  There are some who are planning to get Smoak cheap for 1B and fill out other spots on the diamond first.  In theory this may seem like a good idea but Smoak still has a ton of red flags attached to his name that depending on him for the all-important first base spot is filled with trouble.  So do yourself a favor and resist the urge to overinflate last season's numbers from Smoak and proceed with some more caution.

2018 PROJECTION:  .257 27 HR 88 RBI 80 R 0 SB


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