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April 23, 2010

Smoak Replaces Davis

Texas will purchase the contract of 1B JUSTIN SMOAK and option 1B CHRIS DAVIS to AAA.

MiLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo asked me about a Smoak/Davis swap after I’d tweeted this on Monday:

In 12 games, #texasrangers Justin Smoak has 13 hits, 14 walks, 5 strikeouts, and a .509 OBP. Locked in.

On Wednesday I replied:

My gut feeling is Texas is going to try to give Davis a chance to stick. The one thing in his favor is a decent walk rate and not as many strikeouts as last year. His pitches/appearance ratio is lousy, but at least he's making some contact.

Also, Smoak really didn't have a great spring, so his hot start is out of the blue. I bet Texas would like a some sustained success before they call him up.

Or maybe they panic as the season slips away. I guess, if Davis and Smoak continue at their current paces, we could see a move in as little as two or three weeks. But assuming Davis improves a little and Smoak cools off a touch, not before June. There's the season to worry about, but also Davis's future. If they send him to AAA again, he's pretty much done in Texas, I think.

So much for that. To be honest, I’d first written “as little as one to two weeks” but felt it slightly rash. Also, statistically, Smoak had a better spring than I remembered (.250/.333/.563 in 18 appearances) but certainly didn’t compel management to select him over Davis for the active roster.

Now, despite having used “panic” and “rash,” I don’t see this move as panic[ky] or rash. I wouldn’t have pulled the trigger this soon, but sometimes I’m afflicted with Ent-like deliberateness. This transaction furthers the notion that Texas is playing to win right now. A previous example is the decision to keep its five most effective Spring Training starters (okay, four plus Rich Harden) and option both the well-compensated Brandon McCarthy and the potentially electrifying Derek Holland.

Davis isn’t the hopeless batter from early 2009. He’s been drawing more walks and making better contact in the strike zone. On Thursday during what was apparently a lame-duck performance, he saw a highly impressive 26 pitches in four plate appearances. Unfortunately, he also went hitless with two strikeouts, and his marginally improved discipline has translated to a dismal line of .188/.264/.292 with zero homers.

Smoak is batting .300/.470/.560 in 15 AAA games. Is he ready for Major league pitching? Probably not quite yet, but to an extent, it’s irrelevant. He’ll help the team contingent on hurdling the depressingly low bar set by Davis. Adequate defense and a replacement-level bat are sufficient, equivalent to an imitation of Mark Teixeira, who hit .241/.330/.379 in his first 100 MLB plate appearances. Per GM Jon Daniels: “We're not looking at Justin Smoak to ride in on a white horse and save the day.”

So don't expect this on Friday:


Posted by Lucas at April 23, 2010 02:19 AM