Out of all the cheesy puns out there for a title of this article, being a die-hard LOST fan from Episode 1 I had to go with the obvious Smoak Monster. My AL Rookie of the Year pick on our 5th Podcast Justin Smoak has found himself as the new starting first baseman for the Texas Rangers. A combination of him raking in Triple-A this year and Chris Davis struggling mightily at the plate so far, has given the 23 year-old Smoak the opportunity to come up and show people what he can do on the big league level.
The 6'4'' 220 pound switching hitting first baseman played for the South Carolina Gamecocks in college and was taken 11th overall in the 2008 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers. He immediately reported to the Rangers Low-A affiliate, the Clinton Lumber Jacks of the Midwest League, and in 62 at-bats hit .304 with 3 homeruns and 6 doubles.
In 2009, Smoak split most the season between the Double-A affiliate, the Frisco Rough Riders and at mid-season got the promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League. Even though he put up better numbers in Double-A compared to Triple-A the splits were not that extreme and he finished the season with a .290 average hitting 12 home runs and driving in 57 RBI over 471 at-bats.
Being a switch hitting first basemen in the Texas organization with a good combination of power and plate discipline he of course grabbed a lot of comparisons to former Rangers prospect and player Mark Teixeira. Even though Smoak is definitely talented with the stick he did not exhibit the same kind of power that Mark did in the Minor Leagues. They pushed themselves through the system at a very similar pace, playing at the same levels when the same age. Teixeira had 19 homeruns with a .593 slugging percentage compared to Smoak's 12 home runs and .443 slugging percentage.
This year Smoak started the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City and through his first 50 at-bats has an OPS of 1.010 while hitting 2 home runs and 6 doubles. If he can maintain the .300 batting average it would be welcomed into that Ranger's line-up with open arms. The big test for Smoak will be the same as any prospect breaking into the Majors. He is going to learn how to adjust once pitchers get ''a book'' on him.
Smoak will have a chance over his first seven games to hit in Arlington . He will be matching up against the weaker part of Detroit's staff but then will have to turn around and face the top end of the White Sox rotation early next week. The bottom line on Justin Smoak is that he is a good hitter with power potential and good plate discipline. Like other recent first base call-up Ike Davis, he is probably here to stay unless he runs into some major bumps in the road. Texas fans hope that is not the case and they can enjoy watching another slugging first baseman that their system developed rake this summer in Arlington .
Fantasy wise, Smoak should be owned in all leagues now that he is with Rangers. If you have solid options already in your starting line-up then let Smoak chill on your bench until you see what he can do at this level. If you have someone like Adam LaRoche or Ty Wigginton at either your CI or even first base spot take the gamble and start him. And yes, I would drop Ike Davis to pick him up - I already did in my mixed 12 team points league - because of the higher power ceiling of Smoak.