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Tag:Justin Smoak
Posted on: February 22, 2012 1:22 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 2:35 pm
 

Spring primer: Seattle Mariners


By Matt Snyder


The Mariners are coming off a 67-95 season, when they finished 29 games out in the AL West -- seven behind the third-place A's. It was the sixth time in the past eight years Seattle came in last and they haven't seen the postseason since 2001. One big trade headlined the offseason as they attempt to turn the tide.

Scott Miller's Camp Report: With Jesus, Seattle seeks resurrection | Likes, Dislikes

Major additions: C/DH Jesus Montero, RHP Kevin Millwood, C John Jaso, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
Major departures: RHP Michael Pineda, UT Adam Kennedy

Probable lineup
1. Chone Figgins, 3B
2. Dustin Ackley, 2B
3. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
4. Justin Smoak, 1B
5. Jesus Montero, DH
6. Mike Carp, LF
7. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
8. Miguel Olivo, C
9. Brendan Ryan, SS

Probable rotation
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Jason Vargas
3. Hisashi Iwakuma
4. Kevin Millwood
5. Hector Noesi

Blake Beavan and Charlie Furbush are also in the mix.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Brandon League
Set-up: RHP Shawn Kelley, LHP George Sherrill

Important bench players
C John Jaso, IF Kyle Seager, OF Casper Wells, OF Trayvon Robinson

Prospect to watch
With the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Mariners pegged left-handed starting pitcher Danny Hultzen from the University of Virginia. It's likely his presence -- in addition to Furbush, Beaven and prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton -- made it easier to deal Pineda for some offensive help. Hultzen appeared in the top 30 overall in most prospect rankings this spring and is said to be close to big-league ready. The M's likely don't have a reason to rush him, but if he's ready come June or July, it wouldn't be surprising to see him make an impact this season.

Fantasy sleeper: Kyle Seager
"Seager isn't much of a home-run threat, and playing home games at Safeco Field won't help matters, but his gap power and keen batting eye could help him to an average in the .290 to .300 range, if not higher. Owners may look at last season's .258 mark, his lack of prospect hype and his place in a less-than-imposing Mariners lineup and discount him. However, Seager's ability to get on base and rack up doubles makes him worth a late-round flier in mixed league formats." - Al Melchior [Full Mariners team fantasy preview]

Fantasy "head-to-head hero:" Dustin Ackley
"Ackley's in-the-park extra-base hits will make him one of the seven or eight best second basemen in Head-to-Head, but the potential for mediocre homer and run production makes him a later-round option for mixed league Roto owners." - Al Melchior [Full Mariners team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
Ackley and Montero become stars, Figgins returns to form, a finally-healthy Gutierrez returns to form as well and Ichiro thrives in the 3-hole, finally giving the Mariners a viable offense. Iwakuma adjusts to America impressively while Hultzen storms onto the scene in early June to provide an additional pitching boost. The Rangers and Angels suffer major injury and underachievement issues, and the Mariners shock everyone by winning the AL West.

Pessimistic outlook
Heading into this season, expect the Mariners to be picked third by pretty much everyone. Thus, the pessimistic outlook would be that the Mariners find a way to finish below the A's. If the offense sputters, younger players stall in their development and the rotation behind King Felix proves thin -- which is possible -- that last place finish could repeat.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 6:13 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Texas Rangers

Mark Teixeira

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

The Rangers are in an interesting position in the franchise's history -- no longer a middle-of-the-road team, the Rangers have turned themselves into one of the game's biggest players. The team has reached the last two World Series with a mixture of homegrown players (Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Alexi Ogando), savvy trades (sending Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for a haul that included Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, plus the deal with the Reds getting Josh Hamilton) and big-ticket free-agents (Adrian Beltre). It's tough to argue with the results, as the Rangers have positioned themselves into becoming one of the top teams in baseball and don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Lineup

1. Ian Kinsler, SS
2. Craig Gentry, CF
3. Mark Teixeira, 3B
4. Carlos Pena, 1B
5. Travis Hafner, DH
6. Edwin Encarnacion, 2B
7. Laynce Nix, RF
8. John Mayberry, LF
9. Taylor Teagarden, C

Starting Rotation

1. C.J. Wilson
2. John Danks
3. Derek Holland
4. Colby Lewis
5. Ryan Dempster

Bullpen

Closer - Joaquin Benoit
Set up - Darren Oliver, Nick Masset, Scott Feldman, Jesse Chavez, Yoshinori Tateyama
Long - Tommy Hunter

Notable Bench Players

Ivan Rodriguez will be in discussion for the Hall of Fame when his career ends, but he's now a backup catcher and could be a good one. You have a pair of first baseen in Justin Smoak and Mitch Moreland who aren't going to strike fear into too many pitchers, as well as two outfielders probably better defensively or as pinch runners in Jason Bourgeois and Scott Podsednik.

What's Good?

The rotation is deep -- in addition to the five listed, you could also throw in R.A. Dickey, Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez. And while there's no real shut-down closer, there are some very good bullpen arms, and the list above doesn't include Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Danny Herrera.

What's Not?

Besides Kinsler and Teixeira, the lineup is suspect. And the defense is worse. The outfield is kind of a hodgepodge, while the infield is a disaster with only Carlos Pena playing in his usual position. While Teixeira hasn't played third base since his rookie year in 2003, Kinsler has never played shortstop, nor has Encarnacion ever played second base -- but there just wasn't a whole lot of options. The outfield doesn't have the likes of Hamilton or Nelson Cruz to help out, either.

Comparison to real 2011

Would this team wind up in World Series? Not bloody likely. The pitching is fine and even maybe an slight upgrade to the team that won the American League pennant again in 2011, but that lineup is demonstratively worse. The Rangers were third in baseball in runs and second in OPS, and without Hamilton, Cruz, Mike Napoli, Michael Young and Beltre, this squad isn't going to do anything close to that. Teixeira is a good player -- and Pena could put up big homer numbers in that ballpark -- but those losses from the real squad are just too much to overcome. This team is maybe a .500 squad, at best, and that's only because of the depth in the pitching staff.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals

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Posted on: August 12, 2011 11:46 pm
Edited on: August 13, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Smoak breaks nose on bad hop

By Matt Snyder

As if the Mariners haven't had enough bad fortune this season, a bad hop caused a ground ball to jump up and break first baseman Justin Smoak's nose (Larry Stone via Twitter). This came on the night Smoak finally returned to the lineup after an eight-game absence due to a thumb injury.

Smoak was in front of a Jarrod Saltalamacchia ground ball in the second inning as the Mariners were facing the Red Sox at home, when the ball unexpectedly jumped up and hit him square in the face. Smoak was immediately replaced at first by Adam Kennedy. There's been no timetable announced for how much time, if any, Smoak will miss. It's unlikely he'd be able to play in the infield, but depending upon the severity of the fracture, it's conceivable Smoak could actually still bat and serve as a designated hitter through the injury. We'll know more when the Mariners announce his status. Of course, Smoak is also reportedly undergoing a CT scan, so if he has a concussion, he's definitely going to miss some time and may be out for a while.

Smoak, 24, came to Seattle from the Rangers in last season's Cliff Lee trade. Smoak is hitting .221/.318/.388 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI.

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Posted on: July 3, 2011 10:42 am
Edited on: July 3, 2011 11:14 am
 

On Deck: Cliff Lee looks for 4th straight shutout


By C. Trent Rosecrans 

Cliff LeeTHE AMAZING Cliff Lee: Things aren't looking good for the Blue Jays in their rematch of the 1993 World Series, Toronto dropped the first two games and now face Cliff Lee. Lee enters Sunday's game riding streaks of three consecutive shutouts and 32 consecutive scoreless innings. The Phillies' lefty allowed just one run in five June starts, sporting an amazing 0.21 ERA in the month, lowering his season mark to 2.66. Lee is 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in five career starts at Rogers Centre. Jo-Jo Reyes, no stranger to streaks, is on the hill for the Blue Jays. Phillies at Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m. ET (Follow live)


SEASON SWEEP:
Every year the Indians and Reds play for the Ohio Cup, an actual three-foot high trophy, awarded to the winning team of the season series. Since the actual trophy debuted, it had belonged to the Reds, but with Cleveland's win on Friday, coupled with a sweep at Progressive Field in May, the Indians clinched their first Ohio Cup and today will go for the first sweep in series history. Right-hander Mike Leake (7-4, 3.89 ERA) is making his first start against the in-state rivals, while Mitch Talbot allowed just one run in seven innings in his lone start against the Reds, last season at Great American Ball Park. Indians at Reds, 1:10 p.m. ET (Follow live)

BIG DEBUT: Nearly a year after last year's big trade that sent Lee from Seattle to Texas, one of the key pieces of the trade will make his big-league debut. Right-hander Blake Beavan, a 2007 first-round pick by the Rangers, starts today against San Diego's Mat Latos. Beavan was acquired along with first baseman Justin Smoak, reliever Josh Lueke and second baseman Matt Lawson. Beavan was 5-3 with a 4.45 ERA at Triple-A Tacoma, with 64 strikeouts and 20 walks in 93 innings. Of the four players acquired by the Mariners in the trade, Beavan is the third member of the group to appear in the big leagues. Smoak is hitting .242/.344/.446 with 12 home runs for the Mariners, while Lueke pitched in eight games -- allowing 12 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings -- before being sent down to Triple-A and the Mariners traded Lawson to Cleveland for lefty Aaron Laffey. Lawson is still at Double-A. Padres at Mariners, 4:10 p.m. ET (Follow live)

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Posted on: May 6, 2011 11:28 am
 

Where there's Smoak, there's fire



By Matt Snyder


When the Mariners traded Cliff Lee last trade deadline, young first baseman Justin Smoak was one of the players they received in return from division-mate Texas. He had a modest-at-best rookie season in 2010, showing some power and handling the glove well while sporting a less-than-impressive .218/.307/.371 line.

This season is a different story for the 24 year old, as he's showing signs of a breakout campaign.

Smoak is currently hitting .315 with a .983 OPS, five home runs, 20 RBI and eight doubles. Even better, he's taken 15 walks in 105 plate appearances, pairing patience with his power. And he's in the middle of a run where he's carving up opposing pitchers with relative ease. Since his batting average dipped to .226 on April 10, Smoak has been scorching. In the 17 games since then, Smoak is hitting .362 with a 1.146 OPS, five home runs and 18 RBI. He's collected 21 hits in those 17 games, too.

His former team just saw up close what they coughed up for a few months of Cliff Lee -- and a trip to the World Series, so it's doubtful they're overly broken up about the result of the deal. Smoak had seven hits in 12 at-bats in helping the Mariners take two of three from the Rangers. Of those seven hits, two were doubles and one was a bomb that propelled his team to the series-clinching win Thursday night. He drove home three runs in the three games.

Now the question becomes, just how much of this is sustainable? Is it merely a good run for a run-of-the-mill player, or is he an emerging star?

My opinion is that he slightly falls on the side of the latter. Smoak is not a Miguel Cabrera/Albert Pujols/Mark Teixeira level slugger. He only hit 24 home runs in 170 career minor-league games and now he's relegated to playing half his games in the suffocating confines of Safeco Field. One thing he did do in the minors was take a lot of walks. He's showing his patience this season in the bigs as he gets more comfortable. The average should come down as his .359 BABIP is far too high for a guy who isn't exactly Ichiro on the basepaths, though he should start hitting more line drives to help soften the blow.

For this season, we should probably expect somewhere around 20 home runs, 30 doubles, 75 RBI and a solid on-base percentage with good glove work. That's an encouraging start for an offense badly in need of some sort of foundation for the future.

Finally, it is entirely possible for players to eventually develop power at the major-league level. Joey Votto never hit more than 22 home runs in a minor-league season (did so in 133 games his last full Triple-A season), but pounded 37 last year. Sure, their ballparks are polar opposites, but that should give some hope for Smoak to increase his home run power in the coming years. The Mariners sure wouldn't argue.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: May 6, 2011 10:10 am
Edited on: May 6, 2011 10:13 am
 

Pepper: Struggling Giants return home



By Matt Snyder

THE SAN FRANCISCO TREE: There's a nine-foot tall avacado tree growing behind the center-field wall at AT&T Park. It was born when a former groundskeeper left an avacado pit in a jar of water for a few months, only to see it sprout. He needed a place to plant it, so he did so at the ballpark. Ten years later, it's now standing in an area where the club grows replacement sod for the playing surface. It's a really cool and quirky story you don't see often. (Mercurynews.com )

QUICK TURNAROUND: The Rangers played a night game in Seattle and will have to rush back home to face the Yankees Friday night. They're looking at getting home just over 12 hours before the start of Friday's game. The Yankees, on the other hand, we already checked into their hotel in Arlington before the Rangers Thursday game in Seattle was even started. Shouldn't getaway day pretty much always be a day game, with things like these happening frequently across baseball? Well, city ordinances are in the way. Seattle only allows the Mariners to play eight day games due to traffic issues around the ballpark. There are things like this in several cities across the nation, too. It's just one of those things teams have to deal with from time to time. Hey, they get to play baseball for living, they can deal with the quick turnaround, right? (ESPN Dallas )

QUIET RETIREMENT: Remember Russ Adams? He played for the Blue Jays for a handful of seasons and has disappeared. Apparently he retired Thursday from Triple-A Buffalo (a Mets affiliate). (ESPN New York )

DAMON RISING: Johnny Damon is climbing up the all-time hit list, as he now sits 75th. That's right, of all the guys who have ever played in Major League Baseball, only 74 have collected more hits than Damon. It's actually realistic for him to climb into the top 55 by the end of the season, too. Feels like he might have a pretty underrated body of work, but I wouldn't start talking about the Hall of Fame until he's retired and we can let his resume breathe. Here's a trivia question: There are four active players with more career hits than Damon. Can you name them? (Tampabay.com )

REVIEWING Cliff Lee TRADES: The Seattle Times rounds up the three Cliff Lee trades. There are some names you'll recognize in there, like Ben Francisco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco, Mark Lowe and Justin Smoak. And while Smoak is hitting quite well right now and could turn into a star, the hauls each team got for Lee don't look to measure up to Lee himself at this point. COnsidering the Phillies got prospects back for Lee and then went and signed him in free agency, they'd have to be considered the winners. Honestly, though, I can't really see a big loser. The Indians got lots of young talent and weren't re-upping with him. The Mariners essentially exchanged prospects for a few months of Lee, but Smoak appears to be the best player that changed teams in the trades other than Lee. The Rangers gave up Smoak and only had Lee for a half-season, but went to the World Series.

REVIEWING THE GRANDERSON TRADE: By August of 2010, many were talking about how the Yankees' deal to acquire Curtis Granderson was a loss. After all, the Tigers ended up with Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth while the Diamondbacks got Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson. But looking at Granderson vs. Jackson this season shows the Yankees didn't fare too poorly either -- and it's probably because Granderson's gonna drop 40 bombs , right? (WSJ.com )

TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM: I absolutely love this one. A Royals blogger a while back suggested Wilson Betemit should have let himself get hit by an inside pitch with the bases loaded in a tie game. Fans do this all the time without thinking about the pain aspect, but to Lee Judge's credit, he wanted to put his money where his mouth was. So he got with the team and they fired up the pitching machine and he wore a 92 m.p.h. fastball, just to see what it felt like. There's a video and everything. (Kansascity.com ). As an aside, I have an excuse to pimp my brother's feat here. He played baseball for Valparaiso University and was hit by a pitch a whopping 27 times his senior year. So I have access to a great authority in HBPs. You know what he would say? YOu're damn right it hurts, but it's only temporary.

NOVEL CONCEPT: While many teams in baseball are suffering downturns in attendance due to the economy, weather and probably some other factors, the Blue Jays are flourishing. They're up 56.6 percent since last season at this point, and this with the on-field product not doing so well. So, what gives? Well, for the first time in years they have made an aggressive marketing campaign. Wow, go figure. (The Globe and Mail )

HIGH PRAISE: Jerry Hairston has faced Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens -- easily the big four guys who endured the PED era from the bump. So when he says "he's the best pitcher I've ever faced," who was he talking about? Roy Halladay. (Nationals Journal )

REMEMBER ME? Joey Devine is going to return to the A's bullpen soon. If you'd forgotten about him, you're forgiven. Devine has missed the past two seasons after having Tommy John surgery. He's 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 7 1/3 innings in Triple-A Sacramento. He's struck out nine hitters without allowing a single walk. He's only given up three hits. Yeah, I'd say he's ready. When Devine last threw in the majors, he was lights-out. In 2008, he had a 0.59 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 49 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings out of the Oakland bullpen. He's still only 27, so he will be a major reinforcement for an already-strong pitching staff. Expect a promotion within the next few days.(SFGate.com )

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Posted on: April 29, 2011 9:44 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2011 1:05 am
 

Matsuzaka leaves with 'right elbow tightness'

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Daisuke MatsuzakaDaisuke Matsuzaka left the Red Sox game against Seattle in the fifth inning with what the Red Sox are calling "right elbow tigthness."

Matsuzaka left the game after the leadoff hitter in the fifth inning, Ichiro Suzuki, hit a ball up the middle past him. Matsuzaka threw five fastballs to Suzuki, the last at 87 mph and none faster than 88 mph. After the single, catcher Jason Varitek went to the mound and appeared to call in manager Terry Francona and the team's trainers. After a discussion, Matsuzaka came out of the game.

Matt Albers replaced Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka allowed three hits and three runs (one earned) in four-plus innings of work. He walked four batters while striking out four. His velocity started in the low-90s before slowing throughout his outing.

Justin Smoak's first-inning two-run double broke Matsuzaka's 15-inning scoreless streak.

Following the game, Francona said Matsuzaka will be re-evaluated on Saturday and is still expected to make his scheduled start Wednesday against the Angels at Fenway Park.

"I have an idea what's going on in my elbow right now," Matsuzaka said through his interpreter, according to the Boston Herald. "So I'm not worrying too much about it."

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Posted on: April 26, 2011 9:08 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 9:09 pm
 

Inept Cust could lose job with Mariners soon

By Evan Brunell

CustGeoff Baker of the Seattle Times starts off his piece looking at Jack Cust by saying the "slugger" was supposed to be Seattle's biggest offensive upgrade this offseason.

Without even knowing any more about Cust, that says all you need to know about Seattle's historically inept offense last season and its odds of improving this year.

Indeed, Seattle currently ranks 27th in baseball with just 78 runs scored, and it's hard to imagine the Twins remaining 29th, plus the Orioles are a better team than they have showed so far and are just one run behind the Mariners. It will be a surprise if Seattle finishes any higher than 29th, and even then it will be thanks to the Padres' own inept offense.

Once upon a time, Cust may have actually been viewed as an offensive upgrade, but those days are long gone. Formerly a minor-league lifer who did nothing but mash, Cust finally got his shot at age 28 in 2007 for the A's when he hit .256/.408/.504 with 26 home runs, then followed it up with a 33-homer campaign. Things quickly went south the next two years. While Cust did keep up his power by cracking 25 blasts in 2009, it was a significant enough drop to combine with a .240 batting average in making him not all that valuable. Cust recovered last season by producing a .272 batting average, but lost all semblance of power with just 13 round-trippers.

The Mariners signed Cust, no doubt hoping for a return to his 25-homer ways even if that meant a low batting average. Instead, the M's receive a punchless, hitless DH currently hitting .11/.326/.186.

Baker goes through several scenarios and concludes that if Cust stops hitting, he'll lose his job in mid-May once the Mariners return from an East Coast trip.

Cust could yet rebound, but it's extremely unlikely. Baker believes Seattle could DH Milton Bradley, which would free up an outfield spot for Franklin Gutierrez -- provided he's returned by the time of Cust's demotion from a mysterious stomach ailment -- and shift the Ryan Langerhans/Michael Saunders platoon to let. If Gutierrez isn't back, that could open up full-time spots for Langerhans and Saunders.

The other candidate for DH, as Baker thinks? Adam Kennedy.

Yeah, the average second baseman back in his heyday for the Angels who is now a backup. That Adam Kennedy. Tells you all you need to know about the state of Seattle's offense.

Fortunately, things could be getting better soon. Justin Smoak just returned from a stint on the bereavement list and appears in the process of delivering on his potential, plus top prospect Dustin Ackley could be manning second by June. It won't suddenly reverse the fortunes of Seattle's offense, but at least the M's will have one less position to worry about while seeking offseason upgrades.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com