What should we expect from Justin Smoak next season?

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Smoak
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Smoak /

Was Justin Smoak’s play for the Toronto Blue Jays last season a one-off, or the start of more consistent production from the 2017 All-Star?

If you wanted an example of a player who personified unfulfilled potential, you could do worse that choose Justin Smoak. When the Toronto Blue Jays picked him up off waivers following the 2014 season, it was a gamble, albeit one worth taking.

In the following two seasons, Smoak showed flashes of his potential, but remained frustratingly inconsistent. However, it all finally came together in 2017.

After a decent start in April, the 31-year-old blazed a trail through the Majors during May and June. To give some idea of how prolific his performances were, his 22 homers after three months were a career-high, for a season.

As a result, Smoak was voted in as the American League’s starting first baseman for the 2017 All-Star Game – his first such honor. He went on to finish the season leading the Toronto Blue Jays in home runs and RBI.

In fact across the board, the Goose Creek, South Carolina native set career-bests at the plate. This included his batting average, hits, OBP and slugging percentage.

Smoak also thrived at first base, as he committed just two errors all season. As with his offense, it was always known he had defensive talent, but he underachieved in this respect for a good portion of his career, before turning the corner in 2016.

If the Toronto Blue Jays are to contend in 2018, they will probably need a similar output from Smoak. The question is, was last season a one-off, or the start of more consistent production?

As you’d expect, there is genuine concern it will be the former. Critics point towards how the 2008 11th overall draft pick suffered a dip in production during the final two months of the season.

However, let’s put this into perspective starting with August, when Smoak had just six homers and 13 RBI. Pro-rated over the course of an entire season, he still would have set career-highs in both categories.

More from Toronto Sports

As for September (and one game in October), there is little denying two homers and 6 RBI are disappointing totals. However, the truth is this represented just one poor month in a fantastic overall season for the former Seattle Mariner.

Getting back to the question, there is no way of knowing how Smoak will perform at this stage. As such, Toronto Blue Jays fans will have to (im)patiently wait until April, to start to find out.

One last thing to consider is what the Blue Jays will do with the switch-hitter, if the season starts to pan out in a similar way to 2017. If he continues to produce, the organisation will surely be tempted to get whatever they can for him in a trade.

However, if Smoak does revert to his career averages, Toronto will likely decline their club option in 2019. Either way, it’s up to the player to prove he has reached a point in his career, where he can now produce on a more regular basis.

Next: Jays remain unmotivated to move Donaldson

What kind of season are you predicting for Smoak in 2018? Would you keep him around, or do you believe the Toronto Blue Jays should trade him? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.