Blue Jays can learn prospect lessons from Bautista, Smoak

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Jun 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak (14) hits an RBI single in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

1B Justin Smoak  –  Round 1 (11th), 2008

Justin Smoak was a high pick of the Texas Rangers in 2008 and entered the league as one of the top left-handed power prospects in the game. By the end of the 2009 season, Smoak had risen to the number 13 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America, one spot ahead of Madison Bumgarner.

At that time, Baseball America recognized Smoak as the organization’s best hitter for average, best power hitter and owner of the best strike zone discipline, along with naming him the top defensive first baseman in the Pacific Coast League.

In July of 2010, Smoak was the centrepiece of a deal between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners for Cliff Lee, who at the time was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and 0.945 WHIP. From that point on, Smoak has regressed from a marquee prospect into the bargain bin depth player now employed by the Blue Jays.

For Toronto, and all MLB clubs, this represents the dice-roll that teams take in any deal involving a top-10 prospect. While a Jeff Hoffman or Daniel Norris could easily hoist a future Cy Young award, the harsh reality of professional baseball is that they could just as easily flame out of the league. This is not a condemnation of their games, but simply the nature of their profession.

Next: Jose Bautista and the road less travelled