When Should Rangers Call Up Smoak?

The Texas Rangers are facing an impending decision on whether to call super-prospect Justin Smoak up to replace struggling first baseman Chris Davis. Smoak, who is ranked as baseball's ninth-best prospect by Keith Law and 13th overall by Baseball America, currently remains in Triple A. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of bringing Smoak to the majors in the near future.


  • As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith pointed out in his piece on calling up top prospects, if a player makes his major league debut after April 19th, he won't earn a full year's service time this season. So the Rangers could call up Smoak as early as this week and still have delayed his free agency by a year.
  • Davis is off to a homerless, .229/.289/.343 start to the 2010 campaign, while Smoak has been tearing the Pacific Coast League up (.353/.500/.647 with two homers).
  • When the Rangers drafted Smoak in 2008, Baseball America praised his fielding, citing "Gold Glove-caliber actions and soft hands." Davis's defense at first base is slightly below average (career -2.7 UZR/150).
  • The AL West race looks wide open, and the Rangers presumably want to field their best possible lineup immediately. Delaying Smoak's debut for another month and a half could compromise their chances of contending.


  • If Texas calls Smoak up before late May or early June, he will earn enough service time to eventually qualify as a Super Two, hitting arbitration a year early.
  • It's probably too soon in the season to give up on Davis, considering his career numbers include a .481 slugging percentage and a 162-game average of 30 homers.
  • There's no guarantee that Smoak will thrive at the major league level right away. Even a can't-miss prospect like Matt Wieters posted a mere .263/.308/.369 line in the first 70 games of his career.
  • Smoak's underwhelming Triple A numbers last season also suggest he could use more seasoning, though they can be partially attributed to a strained oblique.

Smoak will almost certainly wear a Rangers' uniform at some point this season. Whether that happens before June depends on a variety of factors, both on-field and off-field. The bet here is that the Rangers give Davis at least another week or two to heat up. If he continues to struggle, we could see Smoak in the big leagues sooner rather than later.

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7 Comments on "When Should Rangers Call Up Smoak?"

5 years 4 months ago

I think June is a reasonable time to bring him up.

5 years 4 months ago

Normally I would say to keep Smoak in AAA until May/June. However, I am not sold on Davis. Think he will end up being a replacement level type player. HR’s are nice but not getting on base sucks.

It’s a really tough call though. I just have a hard time quantifying what material difference Smoak will make over Davis for the next 1.5 months.

5 years 4 months ago

Selling Wieters a little short here. “A mere .263/.308/.369 line in the first 70 games of his career?” He came up and from day 1 was an average major league catcher. That’s undeniably crazy.

Luke Adams
5 years 4 months ago

Given the type of numbers expected of Wieters even in 2009, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that taking a .677 OPS into September was a low-end projection for him.

5 years 4 months ago

Davis is still a developing player. I particularly would like to see if he picks up on his development. The fact that he has low OBP so far on his career means nothing, he is just 24 and on his first complete MLB season (hopefully). Look at this year’s Francoeur to see how much a young player can change if he applies himself. Same thing defensively, he has plenty room of improvement from that slightly negative UZR and the correct body type to be an average defender for years to come. He is actually not that bad for a player on his fourth pro-season. Hopefully, if the Rangers give up on him, maybe the Rays will pick him up and give him a complete turnaround, Pena-style.

5 years 4 months ago

Its funny that you think Francoeur revamped himself but that Pena was the result of the organization. It seems like contradictory assumptions unless you provide more than anecdotal evidence to support each case. Can you do so?

5 years 4 months ago

I was just thinking that Davis can still have a Major League career, but not in Texas. If he can land a gig somewhere like Baltimore, he might be able to get it together a bit quicker.