- Full name Justin Kyle Smoak
- Born 12/05/1986 in Goose Creek, SC
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 220 / Bats: S / Throws: L
- School South Carolina
- Debut 04/23/2010
Drafted in the 1st round (11th overall) by the Texas Rangers in 2008 (signed for $3,500,000).
View Draft ReportA switch-hitting first baseman with power, Smoak draws natural comparisons to Mark Teixiera. Drafted out of high school in the 16th round by the Athletics, he has started every game for South Carolina since arriving on the Columbia campus, doing nothing but produce. After batting .303 with 17 home runs, Smoak earned Freshman All-America honors. He followed that with a .315 batting average and 22 home runs in his sophomore year--enough to be tabbed as a third team All-American. He also competed for Team USA last summer. As a first baseman, Smoak has Gold Glove-caliber actions and soft hands. His footwork and instincts around the bag are advanced and his arm strength is adequate. As a hitter, he is consistent from both sides of the plate, and he has superior pitch recognition. A power threat against any pitch, Smoak has the ability to hit to all fields. Smoak proved his power translates to wood when he hit 11 home runs in 39 games while playing in the Cape Cod League following his freshman year, though he struggled with Team USA last summer. He is thought to be the best combination of offense and defense at first base in this draft class.
Organization Prospect Rankings
A high school teammate of Orioles catcher Matt Wieters in Goose Creek, S.C., Smoak mashed a school-record 62 career homers at South Carolina before signing for $3.5 million as the 11th overall pick. Smoak's first full pro season got off to a good start in Double-A before he missed a month at midseason with a ribcage injury. He struggled initially after a promotion to Triple-A, then made adjustments and finished on fire at IBAF World Cup, where he hit nine home runs in 14 games to capture MVP honors and help Team USA win the gold medal. The switch-hitting Smoak has plus-plus power potential from both sides of the plate. He has a mature, patient approach and the ability to use all fields. A potential plus defender at first base, he has good hands and digs balls out of the dirt well. Smoak isn't a finished product offensively yet, as he needs to stay back more consistently and get better extension out front. He also must improve his lateral range at first base, where his arm is merely adequate. Smoak figures to start 2010 back in Triple-A, but he could be ready for the big leagues sometime later in the year. He has a chance to be a switch-hitting slugger in the Mark Teixeira mold.
A high school teammate of Orioles catcher Matt Wieters in Goose Creek, S.C., Smoak started every game during his three-year college career at South Carolina, where he set Gamecocks career records with 62 homers and 207 RBIs. The Rangers were elated to get him with the 11th overall pick in 2008, signing him an hour before the Aug. 15 deadline for $3.5 million. As a switch-hitter with well-above-average power from both sides of the plate and Gold Glove potential at first base, Smoak draws comparisons to former Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira. Like Teixeira, Smoak is a patient hitter who punishes offspeed stuff as well as fastballs and uses the entire field. He's a hard worker and a good teammate. Smoak has below-average speed and will always be somewhat of a baseclogger, though he's an intelligent runner. Like most switch-hitters, he's better from the left side. Defensively, he still needs to improve his footwork and get used to the speed of the pro game. One of the most advanced hitters in the 2008 draft, Smoak could fly through the Rangers system. He will start his first full season at high Class A Bakersfield and could be entrenched in the big leagues by 2010. He projects as a middle-of-the-order power hitter and has a chance to be a superstar.
Minor League Top Prospects
When the Mariners pulled the trigger on a Cliff Lee trade in July, they chose Smoak from the Rangers as the centerpiece rather than Jesus Montero from the Yankees. He heated up during Tacoma's run to the league championship, batting .423/.595/.538 in eight postseason games. Smoak still can be an impact bat, but scouts aren't as high on him as they were when the Rangers drafted him 11th overall in 2008. He's a switch-hitter whose swing is shorter and quicker from the left side. When he uses the whole field, he projects as a plus hitter with 20-25 home run power, but he tends to press too much and sell out for power. Smoak is a solid defender with a good arm for a first baseman, though his speed and overall athleticism are subpar. Observers praised his makeup and work ethic. If he doesn't become a star, he at least should develop into a big league regular.
Smoak had more trouble catching up to the PCL than fellow 2008 draftees Posey and Wallace. After batting .328/.449/.481 in Double-A, he hit just .167/.267/.244 in his first 20 games at Oklahoma City after being promoted in early July. He was much better in August, though his power never really got untracked. A switch-hitter, Smoak has a mature approach and uses the whole field well. Though PCL pitchers made him look pretty raw at times, he still projects to be at least an average hitter with 20-25 home run power in the majors. He has good strength and will take a walk when pitchers won't challenge him. Smoak doesn't have a lot of speed or athleticism, but he should be a solid defender.
Smoak is another of the league's top prospects who was gone before everyone got a good look at him, earning a promotion to Triple-A and then playing in the IBAF World Cup. He ended up taking MVP honors at the event, hitting nine home runs with 22 RBIs in 14 games as Team USA won the gold medal. A complete hitter who should hit for both average and power, Smoak shows a great deal of confidence at the plate. He's patient and shows a good approach and pitch recognition. Smoak has Gold Glove potential at first base but is a below-average runner who never will be an asset on the bases.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Texas Rangers in 2010
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the Texas Rangers in 2010
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Texas Rangers in 2010
- Rated Best Defensive 1B in the Pacific Coast League in 2009
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Texas Rangers in 2009
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the Texas Rangers in 2009