Smoak played high school ball along with Matt Weiters in Goose Creek, SC – about 5 miles from where I went to college.
I have been able to follow him since his senior year of high school and have seen him play at least once every year, so I feel like I have a good idea about his progression as a player.
Out of high school, Smoak was drafted in the 16th round by the A’s. He wanted $1 million to sign, and the rumor was that the A’s held firm at $950,000 (ouch Oakland).
Freshman year: Started all 66 games at first base in first season, batted .303 with 17 homers and 63 RBI as well as 18 doubles.
Cape Cod: Smoak was the Cape Cod Player of the year going INTO his sophomore season – hitting .315 with 11 HR in the Cap and earning the leagues top player honor, which is really quite impressive.
Sophomore year: Batted .315 (82-for-260) with 22 HR and 72 RBI along with 16 doubles and 64 runs scored.
Team USA: Smoak struggled with team USA going into his Junior year. Word is had some trouble with changeups, hitting .223 with 10 2B, 3 HR in 121 ABs. However, his swing looked fine and his track record at the Cape shows he is not going to have a problem with wooden bats.
Junior Year: He has fallen victim to some high expecations this year – seems like people expected him to hit 30HR or something crazy. He is getting pitched around constantly. Impressivley, he has not gotten frustrated, instead has posted a .364 BA with 11doubles and 13 HR. Furthermore, has has walked 34 times and K’d 21. He is on pace to have more walks than strikeouts in his college career.
The first thing that jumps out at me is the loft and leverage in his swing. It is not a contact swing, it is a little long but with all sorts of power potential (as evidenced by almost half his hits going for extra bases). He has strong wrists that whip the bat through the zone.
In addition, his lower body is very firm, he stays back and transfers his weight well, giving him outstanding balance.
I have seen a few times that the dips out of the plate and is a little pull happy from the right side.
While not concerning his swing per sey, his approach and strike zone judgement are plus areas of his game. It is not easy being pitched around, and seeing off spead pitches constantly. Strike zone judgement is not something easy to teach so its good he has that ability. I have seen reports that he needs work on his pitch recognition as he swings and misses at off speed pitches a little too much.
He is far and away better than other potential 1B – Alonso, Dykstra, and Wallace. Most scouts view Smoak as a potential gold glove 1B, which really helps his draft position over other 1B. It is easier for a scouting director to rationalize a 1B in the top 10 when you know he adds another element to your team.
Smoak is 6’3 and about 210 pounds, with long, lean limbs – as you can see from the youtube video (scroll down), he has plenty of room to fill out and gain another 30 pounds without becoming too big and losing flexibility.
I think that is what is so attractive about Smoak, his unbelievable power without being really close to filling out.
The obvious player comparison is Mark Teixera, because they are both very good college players in good conferences and switch hitters with good defense. However, Smoak does not really figure to hit for the type of average Teixera has hit for.
Smoak seems to me like a 4/5 hitter in a good lineup. He won’t hit well enough for average to bat third I do not think.
Career Year: Putting his best years in all cats into one year would look like this potentially:
291/375/590, 41 HR, 132 RBI.
The obvious choice was the Giants at 5 before they moved top prospect Angel Villalona to 1B this offseason. I have heard rumors (more like wishful thinking) that Smoak could play LF. He just does not run well enough in my mind. However, it would not hurt anything to at least try it. Its not like trying out LF is going to ruin his play at 1B.
I think the Marlins and the White Sox are the two teams in play here though. Marlins could go with local pick Alonso, but I cannot imagine Smoak falling past the Sox. They have two old(er) sluggers in Thome and Konerko (could probably throw Dye in there as well). The Sox are trying to win now, and Smoak would not need much more than a season in the minors. His strike zone judgement and experience against good amatuer competition could help him move faster than that.