The fact that Texas Rangers first baseman Justin Smoak made in to the majors shouldn’t surprise anyone at all. The fact that he has made it to the bigs this soon should. Smoak was ranked as the ninth best prospect in baseball by MLB.com and was expected to crack the roster in 2011, but with the struggles of opening day first baseman Chris Davis, that timetable was adjusted a little. Smoak made his Major League debut on April 23 and walked two times in four plate appearances. Walks will be something Rangers fans will get used to because Smoak is know for his batter’s eye as well as his power.
Justin Smoak was born on December 5, 1986 in Goose Creek, South Carolina. He was kind of a late bloomer as scouts only started to take notice of him in his junior year in high school. He was teammates with Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters at Stratford High School in Goose Creek. Smoak was named Mr. Baseball in South Carolina in 2005 after he batted .558 his senior year.
Smoak was drafted in the 16th round of the 2005 MLB draft by the Oakland A’s, but he decided to go to college instead. He went to the University of South Carolina for three years and quickly became a star. When he was finished at South Carolina he has the career leader in runs batted in, home runs, and walks.
The Texas Rangers selected Smoak with the 11th pick in the first round of the 2008 draft. Some scouts believed that Smoak was the best pure hitter in the draft, but fell to the Rangers because on signability issues. Those scouts were right in a way as Smoak did not sign until 15 minutes before the deadline.
In 2009 he worked his way up the minor league ranks all the way to AAA Oklahoma City. In the three different stops he hit for a .290 batting average and an impressive .410 on base percentage.
Whether Smoak is able to stay in the majors for good is a question that remains to be answered. One thing is certain he already has the patience of a major leaguer as he has taken seven walks in his first seven games. It also isn’t a bad thing when you are being compared to such prominent switch hitters as Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira. On April 29, Smoak hit his first major league home run a rocket that traveled 409 feet, the first glimpse of the power that he has. If he continues to hit shots like that it will be hard for the Rangers announcers to avoid saying “he just Smoaked one”, but hopefully they will leave the cheesy home run calls to the Yankees John Sterling.