Justin Smoak

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Justin Smoak
Justin Smoak on September 12, 2015.jpg
Toronto Blue Jays – No. 14
First baseman
Born: (1986-12-05) December 5, 1986 (age 30)
Goose Creek, South Carolina
Bats: Switch Throws: Left
MLB debut
April 23, 2010, for the Texas Rangers
MLB statistics
(through 2016 season)
Batting average .223
Hits 571
Home runs 106
Runs batted in 327

Justin Kyle Smoak (born December 5, 1986) is an American professional baseball first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball (MLB). He made his debut with the Texas Rangers in 2010, and was traded to the Seattle Mariners during the 2010 season. Prior to his professional career, Smoak played baseball for Stratford High School and the University of South Carolina.

High school career[edit]

Smoak graduated from Stratford High School in 2005. Smoak played four years of varsity high school baseball under coach John Chalus.[1] It wasn't until his junior year in high school that scouts began to notice his talent because they were originally scouting his teammate and friend Matt Wieters.[2] However, Smoak soon made his presence known among scouts. He was named by ABCA, Baseball America, and Collegiate Baseball as a 2005 high school All-American.[1] He was also one of 36 high school players in the nation to play in the 2005 high school All-American baseball game, named South Carolina AAAA Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005, named co-Mr. Baseball for 2005 in South Carolina (alongside Gamecock teammate Reese Havens), made the 2004 and 2005 South Carolina AAAA All-State team, and a member of the 2005 South Carolina AAAA state championship team while with the Stratford Knights.[1] He was initially drafted by the Oakland Athletics as a sixteenth-round pick in 2005 upon graduation,[3] but instead attended the University of South Carolina.[1]

College career[edit]

Smoak went on to play college baseball for the South Carolina Gamecocks. In his three years playing for South Carolina, Smoak consistently put up big numbers. After batting .303 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI, Smoak earned Freshman All-American honors.[4] He followed up with a .315 batting average, 22 home runs, and 72 RBI in his sophomore year, good enough to be tabbed as a third-team All-American.[4] For his junior year, Smoak batted .383, with 23 home runs and 72 RBI.[3] Smoak is South Carolina's all-time home run king with 62, breaking Hank Small's record of 48, which stood for over 30 years. Smoak is also South Carolina's career leader in RBIs and walks.

Smoak was named a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award in 2007 and 2008.[5]

Cape Cod League and Team USA stints[edit]

Justin Smoak
Medal record
Men’s baseball
Representing  United States
Baseball World Cup
Gold medal – first place 2009 Nettuno National team
Pan American Games
Silver medal – second place 2007 Rio de Janeiro National team

In the summer of 2006, Smoak played for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod Baseball League. He led all hitters with 11 home runs, a .565 slugging percentage, and 21 extra-base hits,[6] en route to the MVP award.

In the summer of 2007, Smoak was a representative for Team USA. During the 2007 Pan American Games, Smoak struggled, hitting .190 for the tournament. He won a silver medal there, when his team lost to Cuba in the finals. Later, he competed with Team USA again in the 2007 World Port Tournament. However, he didn't fare much better, as he finished with a .208 average, although he did lead the tournament with three doubles. In all, Smoak hit .223 and had a .380 slugging percentage for Team USA over the summer.

In 2009, Smoak again represented his country in the IBAF Baseball World Cup. Smoak hit nine home runs and drove in 22 runs, and was named to the 2009 IBAF World Cup All-Tournament Team along with fellow Team USA players Terry Tiffee and Jon Weber. He was also named the 2009 Baseball World Cup's Most Valuable Player.[7] He won the USA Baseball Richard W. "Dick" Case Player of the Year Award in 2009.[8][9]

Personal life[edit]

In November 2010, Justin married his high school sweetheart, Kristin Bevacqua. They have one child, a daughter.[10]

In April 2011, Smoak's father, with whom he had been very close, died of cancer.[11]

Professional career[edit]

MLB draft[edit]

Smoak as a rookie for the Texas Rangers in 2010

Smoak was generally considered one of the top five players in the 2008 Major League Baseball draft, but his demands for a high-dollar contract caused several teams to pass on him. The Texas Rangers selected Smoak with the eleventh overall pick,[12] leading USA Today to comment that "getting Smoak at No. 11 may be the best-value pick of the first round."[13]

Smoak was often touted by scouts as one of the best defensive first basemen in the 2008 draft.[14][15] Some scouts compared Smoak to fellow switch hitters Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones.[16] Baseball America wrote that, as a first baseman, Smoak had "Gold Glove-caliber actions and soft hands", as well as "advanced footwork and instincts at first base", though they wrote that he had merely adequate arm strength.[4] Nonetheless, several scouting reports wrote that Smoak's biggest strength was his ability to hit for both power and average on both sides of the plate.[4][14]

Texas Rangers[edit]

Smoak did not sign a professional contract until fifteen minutes before MLB's deadline for teams to sign draft picks. The Rangers gave Smoak a $3.5 million signing bonus and assigned him to one of their Class-A affiliates, the Clinton Lumberkings.[citation needed]

Smoak began play in the 2009 season for the Class AA Frisco RoughRiders. He was promoted on July 8, 2009 to the Triple-A Oklahoma City RedHawks.[17] Smoak entered 2010 ranked among the best prospects in baseball.[18]

Smoak during his tenure with the Seattle Mariners in 2011

Smoak was called up by the Rangers on April 22 and made his Major League debut the following evening in a game against the Detroit Tigers. [19] He recorded his first hit on April 26, 2010 against the Tigers. Smoak set a franchise record by drawing at least one walk in each of his first 4 games. Smoak got his first Major League home run against the White Sox on April 29 off Gavin Floyd and hit his first home run while batting right-handed on May 3, against Oakland off Jerry Blevins.

On June 13, 2010, playing in Milwaukee, Smoak became the first player in Rangers history to strike out five times in a nine-inning game.

Seattle Mariners[edit]

On July 9, Smoak was traded to the Seattle Mariners with prospects Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson for Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe.[20] Smoak was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma on July 31, 2010. He returned to the Mariners on September 18 and batted .340 with three home runs in the final 14 games of his rookie season. Former Seattle Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro gave him the nickname "The Freak From Goose Creek".

On July 23, 2012 Smoak was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, after his batting averaged dropped down to .189 in the middle of a 1 for 25 slump. A few weeks later he was brought back up to the Mariners due to an injury to first baseman Mike Carp.[citation needed]

Toronto Blue Jays[edit]

On October 28, 2014, the Toronto Blue Jays claimed Smoak off of waivers.[21] On December 2, 2014, Smoak was non-tendered by the Blue Jays, making him a free agent. One day later, they re-signed him to a one-year, $1 million contract.[22] He made his debut with Toronto on Opening Day, coming on as a defensive replacement for Edwin Encarnación. On April 22, 2015, Smoak set the all-time record for most plate appearances without hitting a triple to open a career.[23] He would extend the record to 2,317 plate appearances before hitting his first career triple on June 12, 2015, against the Boston Red Sox.[24] In a game at Yankee Stadium on August 8, 2015, Smoak hit his first career grand slam, and also became the first Blue Jay to hit a grand slam against the Yankees at their home field.[25] He split time at first base for most of the 2015 season with Chris Colabello. In 132 appearances, Smoak batted .226 with 18 home runs and a career-high 59 RBI.[26]

Smoak signed a one-year, $3.9 million contract with the Blue Jays for the 2016 season on December 2, 2015.[27] Prior to the start of the season, he changed his uniform number from 13 back to 14, which he had vacated for David Price. On May 3, 2016, Smoak hit a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and in the tenth inning, hit a walk-off two-run home run to defeat the Texas Rangers 3–1.[28] On July 16, Smoak signed a two-year, $8.25 million extension with the Blue Jays that included a $6 million option for a third year, with a $250,000 buyout.[29] Smoak played in 126 games for the Blue Jays in 2016, and hit .217 with 14 home runs and 34 RBI.[26] He was included on the team's Wild Card and Division Series rosters, but was left off the Championship Series roster.[30] On October 15, Smoak was added to Toronto's ALCS roster after Devon Travis was removed due to injury.[31]


  1. ^ a b c d "Player Bio: Justin Smoak - SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS". Gamecocksonline.cstv.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  2. ^ Emerson, Seth (June 5, 2008). "For Smoak, the final step". thestate.com. Archived from the original on June 8, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b yahoo.com MLB draft preview[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d "First Round Recap". baseballamerica.com. June 5, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Justin Smoak & Reese Havens Named Semifinalists For 2008 Golden Spikes Award". CSTV.com. May 20, 2008. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  6. ^ "This Week in the Cape League". capecodbaseball.org. August 29, 2006. Archived from the original on November 9, 2006. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Team USA Wins 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup, Beats Cuba 10-5". Major League Baseball. September 27, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Reese McGuire Wins USA Baseball Player of the Year Award". Baseball America. 
  9. ^ "USA Baseball names year-end award winners". usabaseball.com. 
  10. ^ "Justin Smoak showing signs of promise for the Seattle Mariners". seattletimes.nwsource.com. April 2, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2014. 
  11. ^ Baker, Geoff (May 2, 2011). "Justin Smoak faces big adjustment with death of his confidant father". seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved July 12, 2012. 
  12. ^ "mlb.com draft tracker". Mlb.mlb.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Justin Smoak - USAToday". Fantasyfootball.usatoday.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b "mlb.com draft preview". Mlb.mlb.com. April 17, 2007. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  15. ^ Callis, Jim (February 11, 2008). "baseball-america 2008 draft preview". Baseballamerica.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  16. ^ Grant, Evan (June 5, 2008). "Rangers' draft mood goes up in Smoak". Dallas Morning News. dallasnews.com. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Smoak promoted to Rangers' Triple-A affiliate | Sports | Our Gazette | South Carolina". Our Gazette. July 8, 2009. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  18. ^ John Manuel; Baseball America (December 23, 2009). "MLB's Top 20 prospects include Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward - MLB - SI.com". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  19. ^ Evan Grant / Blogger. "Rangers recall Justin Smoak, option Chris Davis to Oklahoma City | Texas Rangers Blog | Sports News | News for Dallas, Texas | The Dallas Morning News". Rangersblog.dallasnews.com. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  20. ^ T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com (June 29, 2010). "Rangers acquire Lee from Mariners | MLB.com: News". Mlb.mlb.com. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Justin Smoak claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays". The Seattle Times. Retrieved October 28, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Blue Jays sign Justin Smoak". ESPN.com. Associated Press. December 3, 2014. Retrieved December 4, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Minor Leaguer on Twitter". Twitter. April 22, 2015. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  24. ^ Baer, Bill (June 12, 2015). "Justin Smoak hit his first career triple after 2,317 plate appearances". hardballtak.nbcsports.com. Retrieved June 12, 2015. 
  25. ^ McCarron, Anthony (August 8, 2015). "Ivan Nova gives up grand slam to Justin Smoak in 6th as Blue Jays blank the Yankees 6-0". nydailynews.com. Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  26. ^ a b "Justin Smoak Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved October 5, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Blue Jays sign first baseman Justin Smoak to one-year deal". Sportsnet. December 2, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  28. ^ Chisholm, Gregor; Ravjiani, Alykhan (May 3, 2016). "Smoak Show: Dramatic HRs pace walk-off win". MLB.com. Retrieved May 4, 2016. 
  29. ^ Davidi, Shi (July 16, 2016). "Blue Jays sign Justin Smoak to two-year extension". Sportsnet. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  30. ^ Chisholm, Gregor (October 14, 2016). "Liriano, Travis included on Blue Jays' ALCS roster". MLB.com. Retrieved October 14, 2016. 
  31. ^ "Blue Jays replace Travis with Smoak on ALCS roster". Sportsnet. October 15, 2016. Retrieved October 15, 2016. 

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