Blue Jays: Justin Smoak Named AL Player of the Week

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 1: Justin Smoak
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 1: Justin Smoak /

On the heels of an incredible two home run game Sunday, Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak was named AL Player of the Week by Major League Baseball.

After an exhilarating win Sunday against the Yankees, the Blue Jays clubhouse has more to cheer about, as Justin Smoak has been named AL Player of the Week for the abbreviated first week of the 2018 season. On the National League side of things, Washington Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton was honoured as NL Player of the Week.

It’s not surprising that Smoaky is being recognized, given his incredible opening week. Through four games, he’s slashing an extraordinary .467/.529/1.529 with two home runs and a major league-leading eight runs batted in. He’s walked twice and has scored two runs in 15 registered at-bats, striking out five times and slamming two doubles for a total of 15 bases.

Perhaps even more impressive than the stats themselves was how he managed to rack up the impressive totals. In yesterday’s game, Smoak battled through an epic nine-pitch at-bat against Yankee reliever David Robertson, eventually smashing a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning.

Instead of trying to pull the four(!) knuckle curves thrown at him during the AB, he fouled them off, giving Robertson no choice but to give him a heater. The Justin Smoak of 2016 would’ve swung at the hook and would’ve been gone by the third or fourth pitch. The Justin Smoak of 2017 would’ve been more patient, not even offering at the curves, most likely walking in the process. Needless to say, we’re excited to have the hybrid 2018 Smoak in the lineup.

In another fantastic plate appearance, he made quick work of Tommy Kanhle, clubbing a two-run shot to straightaway center to bring the Jays within one. His swing was compact and he continued to show excellent plate coverage throughout the afternoon.

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Elsewhere in the series, Smoak spoiled tough pitches and went to the opposite field on multiple occasions, lining base hits to all fields and working counts to elevate the pitch counts of Yankee hurlers. On the defensive side of things, the Goose Creek, South Carolina native has been solid as always, serving as a big target for Blue Jay infielders. Still, I think we all know that this accolade came largely due to the offense.

Smoak’s early success is even more impressive given the struggles of the Blue Jays offense. Josh Donaldson, Devon Travis and Randal Grichuk, three key cogs in the lineup, have all hit under .200 in the early going. Russell Martin, Curtis Granderson, and Aledmys Diaz have also contributed little production to the batting order.

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Here’s hoping Smoaky can keep this up, because it’s not only fun to watch, but also continues to serve as a reminder to all of us that we shouldn’t dismiss a breakout season as a fluke, even if it looks to be a career year. Smoak will bat third behind Donaldson and Travis tonight as the Jays host the rebuilding White Sox at Rogers Centre.