Blue Jays: Justin Smoak – which one will we see in 2018?

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 8: Justin Smoak /

With the 2018 MLB season fast approaching and the excitement of baseball starting to emerge, there has been a constant stream of Blue Jays news, and players being talked about.  One name that has been barely mentioned is Justin Smoak, the Jays first baseman.  A question needs to be asked about Smoak though – which Justin will show up once the season begins?

I’ve previously written about how Justin Smoak was, to put it mildly, a disappointment when he first joined the Jays in 2015.  In that season we saw him striking out often, hitting inconsistently, and not getting on base when it mattered most.  Unfortunately 2016 was worse than the previous year and was one that Smoak would probably soon forget.  Fans saw his strike out rate creep up to 33%, his home runs fall to 14 for the season, and him finishing 2016 with an embarrassing .217 AVG.

Then 2017 happened.

Smoak emerged as a dependable, reliable, and powerful athlete.  One who could connect with the ball from both sides of the plate.  One whom hit close to 40 HRs.  One whom saw his average flirt around .300 throughout the season.  One whom was voted to the 2017 All Star game.  Overall, a complete opposite of what Torontonians, Canadians, and fans everywhere saw in his two previous seasons with the Jays.

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When the 2018 season starts in a couple months, the question that needs to be asked is, which Smoak will come out to play?

One thing that has worked in Smoak’s favor is his health; he’s rarely been injured and as a result has been given many opportunities to hit over the past three seasons (over 300 yearly plate appearances since 2015).  He’s has also shown that he’s great with the glove and playing defensively – as seen in the extremely low number of errors he’s committed in 2015 (4), 2016 (3) and in 2017 (2).  His glove gave the Jays some much needed reprieve while they were struggling and trying to get out of the basement.

The discrepancy between his average in 2016 (.217) and 2017 (.270) can offer a wide range of ideas to be put forth as to what happened, and what changed from one season to the next.  According to Smoak, as told to reporters during the recent Jays Winter Tour, the low numbers can be attributed to being too hard on himself.  He was concentrating and analyzing every detail of his at bats, not enjoying the game or having fun.  A shift in one’s mentality has been proven to impact one’s life, negatively or positively, and it seems this might have occurred with Smoak as seen in the personal bests he achieved last season.

Baring a terrible occurrence between now and Opening Day (injury, sickness, etc.), look to see Smoak starting at first base.  He has proven to his team, the fans and media alike that he deserves to start in this role because of the achievements of the previous season.  I believe that if he doesn’t put pressure on himself, if he’s given opportunities to go back to the plate after a rough game, and if he approaches the game with the same quiet confidence he had from last season, the Smoak from 2017 will be the one we see in 2018.

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