JOSH SMOKER, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: November 26, 1988
Drafted: Supp. 1st Round, 31st overall pick, 2007 (Nationals)
How Acquired: Free Agent
High School: Calhoun (GA) HS
Agent: Ballengee Group
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|The Nationals drafted Smoker at the start of the supplemental first round in 2008 as a power lefty. He quickly started experiencing shoulder problems, though, and struggled with them throughout his seven seasons with Washington, including velocity that dropped to the mid-80s. He moved to the bullpen, but never got past high A. In 2013, he finally had surgery for both a torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum. He ended up in independent ball in 2014, but the Mets signed him early in the 2015 season and he finally started putting things together. He reached the majors late in the 2016 season and got into 74 games in relief by the end of 2017. The Mets used him heavily against left-handed batters, but he’s been a little more effective against right-handed batters in the majors. He’s not a groundball pitcher and has had trouble with gopher balls as well as walks. He does, however, get a lot of swings and misses. He throws 95 mph and his best secondary pitch is a splitter. He also throws a curve. The Pirates acquired Smoker from the Mets after the latter designated him for assignment.
Smoker signed late, then made two brief starts in the New York-Penn League, which is a higher level than you’d expect for a prep draftee. Baseball America ranked him the Nationals’ sixth-best prospect after the season.
The Nationals kept Smoker in extended spring training until the end of May due to a sore shoulder, then sent him to full season ball. He struggled there, with his velocity down due to the shoulder soreness. After five rough starts, the Nats sent him to rookie ball, where he pitched better but with weak walk and K rates. BA rated him just 25th among Nats’ prospects. He had surgery in November to remove bone spurs.
Following the surgery, Smoker went back to rookie ball and pitched somewhat better.
Smoker spent the season in low A and, apart from a good K rate, had a rough time. Washington moved him to the bullpen in August.
The Nats used Smoker in relief in high A and he had his first productive season, albeit with a very high walk rate.
Smoker was able to make only six appearances.
Smoker had surgery on a torn rotator cuff and labrum, and missed the entire season. He became a minor league free agent afterward.
After signing with Rockford of the independent Frontier League, Smoker appeared in 29 games in relief. He continued to struggle, especially with his control.
The Mets signed Smoker in early April and sent him to low A at the end of the month. He struggled through six outings, but he moved up to high A and dominated there. After 14 outings he moved up to AA and continued to pitch very well through 21 more outings except for some control problems. The Mets added him to their 40-man roster after the season and BA rated him the team’s 24th best prospect.
Smoker spent most of the season in AAA, but got called up in mid-August. At both stops, especially in the majors, he put up outstanding walk and K rates. He got hit surprisingly hard in AAA, with opponents batting .287 against him. Most of the damage came in a rough month of May; he pitched well otherwise. The high-offense environment at Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League was probably also a factor. In the majors, he was hurt by the gopher ball, allowing better than one every four innings thanks to a very high HR/FB ratio of 26.7%. Due to the high HR rate, his xFIP of 2.49 was much better than his ERA.
The Mets kept Smoker in the majors to start the season, but sent him to AAA after he struggled through the first six weeks. He returned two weeks later, but in mid-June he went on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. After a rehab assignment, he returned to the majors in late July. He didn’t pitch well in July and August, but had a strong month of September, striking out 16 and walking just three in 11.1 IP. On the season in the majors he again had trouble with a high HR/FB ratio, this time 17.9%. The Mets designated him for assignment in late January and traded him to the Pirates.
Smoker didn’t have a great spring, but he made the Pirates’ opening day roster. With two options left, he could still spend some time in AAA, depending on his performance in the majors.
UPDATE: Smoker pitched very badly in seven games with the Pirates and was sent down. He pitched reasonably well with Indianapolis, but the Pirates evidently weren’t impressed as they designated him for assignment in order to make room for Casey Sadler.
2018: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: $1,000,000
MiLB Debut: 2007
MLB Debut: 8/18/2016
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2023
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/5/15 (since removed)
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2016, 2018)
MLB Service Time: 1.046
|June 7, 2007: Drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 1st round, 31st overall pick; signed on August 14.
November 5, 2013: Became a free agent.
April 2, 2015: Signed as a minor league free agent by the New York Mets.
November 5, 2015: Contract purchased by the New York Mets.
January 26, 2018: Designated for assignment by the New York Mets.
January 31, 2018: Traded by the New York Mets to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Daniel Zamora and cash considerations.
July 23, 2018: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.