March 3, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak (17) tosses to relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez (52) (not pictured) on first to complete an out in the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Smoak will reportedly play first base.
A vote of confidence from the manager can certainly be a positive gesture in certain situations. However, one has to wonder if it is perhaps a bit early to be picking spots.
It is one thing to go with safe picks. Felix Hernandez is still your ace. Robinson Cano is your second baseman. Kyle Seager is your third baseman. Beyond that, the Seattle Mariners have a lot of questions.
That includes the “Smoakamotive.” He still has a lot to prove.
Smoak hit all of .238 last season, and he has a .227 career batting average. He did post a career-high .334 on-base percentage in 2013, but these are hardly the numbers of a consistent producer with the bat. Defensively Smoak is the best option at first base but traditional most teams like to get a little more offense from that position.
Some fans have remained optimistic about Smoak, hoping that eventually he will “turn the corner” or have a “breakout” season. There just comes a point in a player’s career where you have to wonder whether the ceiling has been reached.
At 27, Smoak is not exactly a prospect anymore. He has played in 100 or more games for the last four seasons and his progress seems to be inching up very slowly.
Sure, he had a 1.1 WAR last season,which was the best of his young career. However, do the Mariners really think that Smoak is going to make a serious jump in 2014 and start hitting .270 or clubbing 30+ home runs?
The way the roster is shaping up, Smoak might have been the everyday first baseman anyway. It just seems a little bit early to make such a statement. Why couldn’t Corey Hart or Logan Morrison compete for the starting job? What happens if Smoak has an awful spring from this point forward?
Last spring, Smoak hit .407 in Arizona and then hit the previously-mentioned .238 during the regular season. This spring he is hitting .292 through 10 games.
What can we expect during the regular season? Lloyd McClendon is apparently not worried, since he already gave Smoak the job at first base. Maybe this will finally be the year that Smoak lives up to the hype.