Olney: Is it time for Justin Smoak?
Smoak is off to a strong start in Triple-A, hitting .300; he drew a walk Friday night in Oklahoma City's victory over Memphis, his 10th this season, in nine games; he has only three strikeouts, and four extra-base hits. Scouts rave about the quality of his at-bats.
Smoak jumped to Triple-A last season after being picked 11th overall in the 2008 draft, and struggled initially, after dominating in Double-A. He hit .244 for Oklahoma City in his past 54 games, perhaps the first time in his career he has dealt with an extended slump. "It was pretty bad," he said. "It was really a good learning experience. I was trying to do too much. … [The Rangers' staff] said it was good to do it now, rather than later on, so it taught me a lot."
Smoak fell into the kind of hole that gnaws at a hitter's psyche, with his timing never quite right. He was swinging too early at breaking pitches and too late at fastballs, and just didn't feel comfortable. "Once you get to Triple-A, you face guys who know how to pitch," Smoak said.
Eventually, before the end of the season, Smoak was able to get back into his usual mindset -- slowing down the game, stalking pitchers, doing some damage.
If he keeps hitting, and if Davis continues to flounder in the big leagues, the Rangers will soon be faced with the choice of whether to promote Smoak in an effort to improve the offense of a team that clearly has a shot at winning the AL West. If the Rangers decide to sidestep a year of arbitration with Smoak, then the promotion won't come until late May or early June.
But Smoak said he isn't thinking about his possible promotion. "Your time is going to come when it happens to come," he said.
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