Blue Jays: Justin Smoak could be the biggest key to 2018 success


The Toronto Blue Jays success in 2018 will largely be determined with health to key cogs like Josh Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez, Troy Tulowitzki, J.A. Happ, and DevonTravisi.

Beyond health, there will be the need for rebound seasons from Kendrys Morales, Kevin Pillar, and Roberto Osuna. However, one of the key cogs that need to happen for Blue Jays success in 2018 is likely that of Justin Smoak being at or near the level he was at in 2017.

A season removed from a slash line of .217/.314/.391, a K% of 32.8%, and a wRC+ of 91 was followed up with a slash line of .270/.355/.529, a K% of 20.1%, and a wRC+ of 132. It most definitely was a season nobody could have expected from Justin Smoak but in a season where nothing went right at all, Smoak’s breakout was a welcome sight. Imagine Smoak didn’t have the season that he did. The Blue Jays very well could have had at least 10 more losses.

2017 was a tale of two seasons for Smoak and there are likely some legitimate reasons for why that was. Here is the breakdown of his two halves:

  • First Half: .294/.360/.575, 145 wRC+, .936 OPS, 23 home runs, 56 RBI
  • Second Half:

    .241/.349/.475, 118 wRC+, .824 OPS, 15 home runs, 34 RBI

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    Smoak’s second half was definitely not as good as his first half in nearly as many plate appearances which got people questioning whether the first half Smoak as an anomaly. People definitely are right to be suspect of Smoak’s 2017 season considering he was terrible in 2016 and never was able to put all that highly touted talent together throughout his previous 6 seasons.  The breakout was a nice surprise for the Blue Jays fanbase but likely wasn’t a big surprise to the front office considering they extended him midway through the 2016 season.

    Smoak has always had a ton of power and the ability to take his base via the walk. He just always dealt with a big strikeout problem, never got a consistent and everyday opportunity to be the guy, and his launch angle was lower than it was in 2017. He fixed the strikeout problem by changing his approach at the plate and was entrusted with the everyday job straight out of Spring Training. He never had to compete for the everyday job despite the fans clamor to bring Rowdy Tellez north.

    Now, the dip in production in 2017 was likely due to a lingering lower-body injury that hampered Smoak from about mid-August through to the end of the season. The pessimists will attribute it to them not fully believing in the breakout that Smoak was having in 2017. However, there were some pretty clear adjustments that show the improvement could be here to stay such as the launch angle and improvements in all areas of contact percentage.

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    If I were a betting man, I’d say we could see near or at the same level of production from Smoak in 2018. In a season where the Blue Jays need quite a bit to go right for them with a bunch of the key pieces of the core, Smoak could be the biggest key to success in 2018 by just carrying his 2017 form into 2018.