Leading up to the 2008 MLB Draft, Justin Smoak was widely regarded as a top-five talent. That's why the Rangers were ecstatic when he fell to them at the 11th overall pick.
Because Smoak's bonus demands were above-slot [he eventually signed for $3.5 million], the Rangers weren't able to get him signed and on the field as quickly as they would have liked.
Once Smoak did sign on the August 15 deadline, he was shipped out to Clinton, Iowa, to finish the yaer with the Rangers' low Single-A club.
Smoak was impressive in 14 regular season games with the LumberKings, batting .304 with three doubles, three home runs, and five walks. The South Carolina product was just glad to be playing baseball again.
"Finally just getting out and playing was great," said Smoak. "It is just great being a part of this organization and being able to go to Clinton for three weeks to get some at-bats. That was a great experience for me."
The first baseman was coming off a record-breaking junior campaign at South Carolina, where he batted .383 with 23 home runs and 72 RBI in 63 games. His 57 walks helped lead to a .505 on-base percentage. But 78 days had passed from the end of his collegiate season to his August 18 professional debut. Still, Smoak didn't show any signs of rust.
"Low-A ball, the pitching there was tough," he said. "But it was really nothing I hadn't seen before, playing in the SEC and playing against good competition every week."
Following his strong finish to the regular season, Smoak remained in Clinton for the Midwest League playoffs. The L-Kings were swept in the three-game series, but Smoak continued to shine, going 3-for-8 with a double and a walk.
The 21-year-old then returned home for about a week of rest before reporting to the month-long Fall Instructional League in Arizona. Smoak recently finished his first instructs and came away pleased with what he learned.
"Coming out here, I didn't really know what to expect with this being my first time out here at this complex," Smoak explained. "Being here, I've been learning a lot from not just other players, but also coaches and everyone else. I really feel like I have kind of fit in a little bit."
After getting just 64 at-bats in Clinton, Smoak says he spent most of instructs just trying to get his swings in.
"The big thing is just getting more at-bats because I was off for two months this summer," he replied. "I didn't see a lot of pitching. Out here, I've really worked hard on my defense and I have really tried to work on swinging the bat."
Smoak was recently added to the Arizona Fall League roster. The switch-hitter has appeared in one game thus far, going 1-for-4 with a single.
"Right now I'm on the taxi squad, so I play Wednesdays and Saturdays," Smoak said. "Whenever I get a chance, I'll maybe DH here or there. But you've got 40-something guys on the roster. It's an honor just to be added to the Fall League roster and get a chance to play with some older guys and some old teammates."
Smoak getting his swings in
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