By Brent Stecker
Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the game, so it’s safe to say he knows a good defensive player when he sees one. Especially if it’s the guy he’s throwing to every day.
The Mariners’ Justin Smoak ranked third among all American League first baseman with a .997 in fielding percentage in 2012. (AP)
Ryan told “Bob and Groz” on Friday that Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak doesn’t get enough attention for his defensive play, even though the fourth-year player was third among all American League first baseman with a .997 fielding percentage in 2012.
“Knowing the game and watching Smoakie every day, how soft his hands are, his instincts, his reads on bounces and just (the) flow of the game, all that stuff, he’s right up there,” said Ryan, a regular on Baseball Tonight’s Web Gems and a 2012 Fielding Bible award winner. “No one’s saying he’s going to be as agile as Ozzie Smith at first base or something, but he makes up for it with his instincts. He’s as good as they come with picking the ball and all of that. His technique is so sound and rehearsed.”
Ryan said Smoak is as good an example as any for aspiring first basemen.
“If I’m a kid watching the game and I’m a first baseman … I would want to pay attention to Smoakie and what he does and how he does it, because there’s a reason he is as good as he is, and he’s not talked about enough for his defense,” said Ryan. “He makes the entire infield better, and anyone who says otherwise just doesn’t watch enough. He’s special over there.”
Listen to the full interview for more from Ryan, including his thoughts on the chemistry of the Mariners’ infield, his recovery from offseason elbow surgery and the veteran leadership of Raul Ibanez.