Josh Smoker‘s career has been anything but smooth sailing since the Nationals drafted him in the first round in 2007. He spent almost a decade in the minors leading up to his call up with the Mets last August 19; this even included a 2014 season spent in independent ball. And even with his success last season, he was left off the Mets’ postseason roster.
But this spring, it’s starting to look like he can kiss the uncomfortable bus rides, cheap hotels and the low salaries that are a natural part of minor league life goodbye– at least for the immediate future.
Smoker has emerged as perhaps the Mets’ most lethal lefty out of the bullpen. He’s posted a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 Grapefruit League innings so far, striking out ten while allowing just two runs on seven hits. He’s definitely been the Mets reliever who has clearly gained the most this spring, essentially guaranteeing his first-ever Opening Day roster spot at 28 years old.
Spring stats are obviously a small sample size, and the games don’t count for anything. But following a solid 2016 in which Smoker recorded a 2.16 ERA in his last 12 appearances of the season (in 8.1 innings), this is really encouraging– especially for a team that was short a true secondary lefty behind Jerry Blevins.
This year, the Mets will have Jerry Blevins, Smoker and possibly even Josh Edgin as lefties out of the ‘pen. Blevins has established himself as one of the most reliable southpaws in the game since coming to the Mets, and Smoker is starting to look pretty solid himself. If they could get Josh Edgin to pitch like he did in 2014, when he posted a 1.32 ERA, the Mets’ best-case scenario out of the bullpen is a lefty three-headed monster that will bolster one of the deepest bullpens in the league. Most teams don’t carry three lefties, but Smoker could force the Mets to do just that.
So Smoker may not be John Franco, but at 28, he’s finally proving that he belongs in the big leagues. Not bad for a guy who was in independent ball three years ago.