Justin Smoak

TorToronto Blue Jays
Justin Smoak
May 23: Smoak is not in the lineup Tuesday against the Brewers. With the Blue Jays beginning a series in a National League park, there's one less spot in the batting order for a position player. Smoak will head to the bench to allow regular designated hitter Kendrys Morales to pick up a start at first base, although there's a good likelihood of Smoak getting some action during the series in order to keep him fresh.

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May 18: 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.

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May 14: 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.

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May 12: Smoak went 3-for-4 with a solo home run, four RBI and two runs during Thursday's win over Seattle. The first baseman has turned it on of late with nine runs, three home runs, 11 RBI and a .326/.370/.558 slash line through his past 12 games. Smoak has taken a more selective approach at the plate and cut his strikeout rate down to 21.5 percent after posting a 32.8 percent mark last year. It's an encouraging development. After failing to live up to the hype that made him a coveted slugging prospect moving through the minors, Smoak might finally be putting it all together at the dish in his age-30 season.

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May 2: 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.

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Apr 29: 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 connected on all four of his homers 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.

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Apr 27: 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.

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Apr 25: Smoak is out of Tuesday's lineup against the Cardinals, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports. The Blue Jays are playing in a National League ballpark, so Smoak will head to the bench while Kendrys Morales draws the start at first base. Smoak has been solid at the plate lately, as he's hit .296 with six RBI and a .960 OPS over the last seven days.

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Apr 19: Smoak went 2-for-5 with a solo home run and two RBI in Tuesday's loss against Boston. The first baseman has been warming up after starting 2017 just 4-for-24 (.208) with eight strikeouts. Over his last four games, Smoak is 5-for-13 (.385) with a pair of round trippers, a double and just the second triple of his career. Expect to see the 30-year-old in the lineup more frequently as Toronto looks to find any answer to its awful 2-11 start to the season.

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Apr 16: Smoak is out of the lineup for Sunday's game against the Orioles. The Blue Jays wanted to give Jose Bautista a day out of the field, so he'll serve as the designated hitter while Kendrys Morales moves over to first base, leaving no room in the lineup for Smoak. Josh Donaldson's (calf) recent placement on the disabled list still figures to create an easier path to at-bats than would normally exist for Smoak, but he'll likely need to experience some success before warranting much attention outside of AL-only leagues.

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Apr 14: Smoak went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and two RBI in Friday's loss to the Orioles. The first baseman entered the game hitless in his previous nine at-bats before drilling an RBI single to left field in the second inning Friday. Two frames later, Smoak launched his first homer of the campaign. Although it was a productive night, there's been no signal that Smoak will break the platoon he's currently serving in.

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Apr 13: Smoak is not in the lineup Thursday against the Orioles, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports. Josh Donaldson still isn't ready to play in the field, so Smoak will have to stay on the bench while Kendrys Morales mans first base. Smoak is expected to resume his role as the everyday first baseman once Donaldson returns to the hot corner.

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Apr 12: Smoak is out of Wednesday's lineup against the Brewers, Sportsnet's Mike Wilner reports. With Josh Donaldson (calf) getting eased back as the DH, Kendrys Morales will get the start at first base, relegating Smoak to the bench. Once Donaldson is ready to return to the field, Smoak should return to a fairly regular role as the starting first baseman.

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Apr 7: Smoak is starting at first base and batting sixth in Friday's game against the Rays. Smoak continues to receive plenty of playing time in the early going, starting his third consecutive game Friday. The switch-hitting slugger is 3-for-8 on the year with a double as he looks to move past a frustrating 2016 campaign in which he hit just .217 with 14 home runs. With Steve Pearce set to man the everyday left field position, it appears there will be a bounty of opportunities to come for Smoak.

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Apr 4: Smoak struck out as a pinch hitter in his only at-bat of Monday's Opening Day loss to the Orioles. Smoak was challenged with all fastballs and froze for a called strike three on the fifth pitch of his at-bat. Despite management voicing confidence during spring training that the 30-year-old could handle an everyday role at first base, Smoak was not penciled in as a starter on Opening Day. Instead, that honor went to the club's expected left fielder, Steve Pearce. With Pearce still recovering from an elbow ailment, manager John Gibbons plans to continue stashing him at first base until his arm is fully healthy to defend the outfield. Gibbons' decision means Smoak will be the odd-man out on most days until further notice.

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Mar 13: Smoak went 0-for-2 with a walk and scored a run in Monday's exhibition game against the Red Sox. Entering camp, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and manager John Gibbons did all they could to praise Smoak and encourage him to grab ahold of the reigns full-time at first base in 2017. Unfortunately, the 30-year-old Smoak has been unable to thrive off the encouragement this spring. He's managed just three singles in 23 at-bats (.130) while striking out nine times over nine Grapefruit League games. With Steve Pearce (elbow) nearing a return, and prospect Rowdy Tellez proving he's ready to produce at the big-league level, Smoak is in serious danger of losing management's support before Opening Day even rolls around.

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Feb 19: Smoak, who was previously presumed to be in line for a platoon role, is the Jays' preferred every-day first baseman, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports. On Saturday, after the Jays' first full-squad workout, general manager Ross Atkins called Smoak playing every day at first, with Steve Pearce the primary left fielder, as the club's "best-case scenario," the first time he's explicitly expressed that. Pearce (elbow) is supposed to be ready to play the outfield by Opening Day, but if he's not, then the newly-acquired Pearce will cut into Smoak's playing time at first base. However, if Pearce can play left as expected, then Smoak's fantasy value will get a huge boost with the prospect of an everyday role.

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Feb 12: Smoak will start the season playing the heavy side of a platoon at first base with Steve Pearce, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports. Smoak will get to start against righties while Pearce takes on southpaws. Assuming Pearce fully recovers from offseason elbow surgery, Smoak will have his hands full holding onto the part-time job. Smoak formed an effective platoon with Chris Colabello in 2015, but last year he hit just .217 with a .314 on-base percentage, and that simply won't cut it, especially after the Jays handed Pearce a two-year, $12.5 million contract in December.

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