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One of the flaws some Fantasy Baseball players have is to be dismissive of players based on hot starts due to reputation and track record. A great start in a small sample could look like an outlier unless you dig deep.
Eric Thames, Charlie Morton, Ryan Zimmerman, Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison, Mark Reynolds, Ervin Santana, Corey Dickerson, Scott Schebler and Travis Shaw are some of the players many have been slow to buy into. Not all of them are going to continue their pace, but just looking at the resume before this season without seeing if they are doing something different likely prevented a pickup.
Justin Smoak is the latest player that falls into this category. Smoak was a big-time prospect and all he has done is disappoint. As a result, no one wanted Smoak in drafts. Smoak was the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Rangers. He was traded to the Mariners and then the Blue Jays claimed him off waivers.
Smoak had a career-high 535 plate appearances in 2012 and hasn't topped 341 in any of the last three seasons. He didn't do enough to earn more at-bats with a career average of .226, a .310 on-base percentage and a .709 OPS. That's certainly not Fantasy worthy, especially for a first baseman.
All of a sudden, Smoak is hitting well. He has homered three times in four games going into Thursday. In 55 at-bats over 16 games in May, Smoak is batting .291 with 13 runs, five home runs and 15 RBIs. He is batting .280 with 20 runs, nine home runs, and 27 RBIs with an .888 OPS. Smoak has been sitting on the waiver wire in many leagues for weeks because he's perennially been a disappointment.
I added Smoak in my home league a few weeks ago and added him in the Sirius XM Hosts league of 12 teams last week and that could turn out to be necessary since I have Freddie Freeman, who was hit with a pitch on the wrist Wednesday. Initial reports indicate he will miss a good amount of time and it could be broken.
The biggest change for Smoak is improved contact. He has a career strikeout rate of 23.6 percent, but it was 26.2 percent in 2015 and 32.8 percent last season, both years in Toronto and the worst marks of his career. Smoak is at 19.2 percent this season. He has an 8.9 percent walk rate, slightly below his career average of 10.6 percent.
Smoak has a 24.8 percent line drive rate, 37.1 percent fly ball rate and a career best 43.8 percent hard hit rate. He is making a lot of contact with pitches in the strike zone at 94.5 percent and his swinging strike rate has gone down. Most of the success for Smoak, a switch hitter, has come against right-handers. This season, he's been better against left-handers, batting .400 with seven runs, four home runs and 10 RBIs with a 1.306 OPS in 30 at-bats.
It's not a big sample, but there are some positive changes for Smoak. It might not continue, but it's worth taking a shot on him if you have a lot of injuries or have some dead weight at the end of your roster. Freeman owners will have to take a shot.