Josh Smoker struggled so mightily in the lower levels of the minors at the beginning of his professional career that it looked like there was relatively little possibility of him moving up through the ranks. A year removed from an 8.10 ERA at the Low-A level, the 27-year-old got his first crack at Triple-A in 2016. While he was plagued by an absurdly high .433 BABIP in that stint, Smoker pitched to a 2.45 FIP and continued his high strikeout ways to the tune of 12.8 K/9. The Mets were impressed enough with his ability to miss bats -- highlighted by an upper-90s fastball -- to give him a look with the big league club. Though opposing batters were able to hit him fairly hard when they did make contact, the lefty figures to be a solid source of strikeouts and holds again next season if he's given another chance in the major league bullpen.
Smoker will compete for a spot in the Mets' bullpen this spring. The 28-year-old, a first round pick of the Nationals way back in 2007, has had a long journey to the majors, but after posting a 25:4 K:BB in 15.1 innings with the Mets last year, he seems to have finally proven himself. The team has been looking for a veteran lefty this offseason but hasn't yet brought in anyone, leaving Smoker at the top of a depth chart that also includes Sean Gilmartin and Josh Edgin. Even if the Mets do sign a more established left-handed relief arm, though, Smoker seems likely to break camp on the 25-man roster, even if it's in a lower-leverage role.
Smoker notched his second hold of the season Saturday, recording two key outs against lefties in the seventh inning of the Mets' 3-1 over the Nationals. Smoker relieved Jim Henderson with a runner on first and one out. He retired Daniel Murphy on a line drive to center field caught by a sliding Michael Conforto and struck out Bryce Harper on a nasty slider. Smoker will continue to be used mainly against lefty hitters anywhere from the sixth to eighth innings.
Smoker was recalled Tuesday to serve as the 26th man for Tuesday's doubleheader with St. Louis. The Mets will take advantage of the "26th Man Rule" by adding Smoker to their roster for a doubleheader matchup. The 27-year-old has logged a 4.73 ERA and 1.60 WHIP over 45.2 innings with Triple-A Las Vegas, where he's spent all of the 2016 season. He'll serve as bullpen depth for both games and could get optioned shortly after.
Smoker tossed two perfect innings with one strikeout in a Mets' intrasquad game Tuesday, the NY Post reports. Smoker resurrected his career in the independent leagues after being derailed by shoulder woes following his selection by the Nationals in 2007. He continued that success in the minors last season for the Mets, almost earning a September call-up. Smoker was added to the 40-man roster in November, and while most of the bullpen spots are taken, he could force his way onto the squad with a strong preseason.
Smoker was added to the Mets' 40-man roster Thursday, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports. Smoker pitched well in the minors in 2015, posting a 3.00 ERA with Double-A Binghamton and striking out 26 batters in 21 innings. This move could be just to prevent him from being a target of the Rule 5 Draft, but it could also lead to bigger things, especially with the left-hander possessing the ability to touch the upper-90s with his fastball.