Smoak is not in the lineup Thursday against the Braves. Without the luxury of a designated hitter, the Blue Jays have to put Kendrys Morales at first base to get him in the lineup, thus pushing Smoak to the bench. The 30-year-old is having a solid bounce-back campaign this season, producing an .887 OPS with nine home runs, so he'll likely be back in the lineup Friday when Toronto is back in the American League ballpark in Baltimore.
Smoak went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run during Sunday's win over Seattle. Smoak entered Sunday with nine runs, three home runs, 11 RBI and an .824 OPS through his previous 14 games. He has taken a more selective approach at the dish now that he has an everyday job, and it's working. Smoak has cut his strikeout percentage all the way down to 20.3 after posting a 32.8 mark last year, which is an encouraging sign that his recent uptick in production is sustainable.
Smoak, who's off to a strong start in 2017, said he's been studying more video and concentrating on hitting for contact instead of swinging for the fences, Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star reports. The switch-hitting first baseman has made specific adjustments this season to handle breaking balls, a pitch he struggled mightily with last year. Smoak posted a career-high 32.8 percent strikeout rate in 2016, but he's got that number down to 22.1 percent through 81 at-bats in 2017. With more playing time comes more footage to review in the film room. "I feel like I've been doing a better job of that," Smoak said. "Last year, when there wasn't a lot of playing time, I tried to hit everything -- all three or four pitches the pitchers had -- and you can't do that." Through 26 games, the 30-year-old is slashing .272/.302/.494, and he's taken control of the first base job while his potential platoon partner, Steve Pearce, struggles in the early going.
Smoak went 3-for-3 with a two-run homer and two runs Saturday against the Rays. Smoak's fourth blast of the year broke open a 2-1 game in the sixth inning of a Blue Jays victory. Although he's been far from a strong fantasy option at first base, he's hit four home runs over his last 15 games. However, after having not hit more than 20 homers in any of his previous seven seasons, it's unlikely that he'll develop a more consistent power stroke.
Smoak is in the lineup for Game 1 of the Blue Jays' Thursday doubleheader with the Cardinals, batting fourth and playing first base, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports. Smoak replaces typical designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who'll likely play during the nightcap as the two split first base in the National League ballpark. Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez has endured a tough start to 2017 (4.76 ERA through his first four starts), so Smoak has a little sleeper appeal in daily fantasy.
|vs NELSON (CAREER)||0/0||---||0||0||0||0||0|