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 threw three shutout innings of relief in Thursday's extra-inning win over the Marlins, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out five. Entering the game in the 12th inning, Smoker breezed through his three frames, throwing 26 of 38 pitches for strikes as part of a heroic effort by the entire Mets' bullpen. The 28-year-old has had a rough start to the campaign, walking at least one batter in four straight appearances, but Thursday's outing lowered his ERA to 3.38 over 5.1 innings and may have signaled that the lefty with the 95 mph fastball has turned a corner.
Smoker coughed up two runs on three hits and two walks while recording just one out in Friday's loss to the Marlins. The out did come via strikeout, but otherwise this was a brutal night for Smoker. The 28-year-old lefty has seen limited usage so far despite the strain the Mets bullpen has been under. Though Smoker has a mid-90s fastball, he'll need to become more reliable when his number gets called if he's going to carry much fantasy value.
Smoker allowed one hit and struck out one in a scoreless sixth inning during Friday's Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals. The left-hander has done little to hurt his chances of winning a bullpen spot this spring, reeling off a 0.96 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 9:5 K:BB in 9.1 innings. Smoker's control has occasionally been an issue before -- he posted a 4.7 BB/9 for Double-A Binghamton in 2015 -- but his ability to miss bats could still make him a useful arm in fantasy formats that reward relievers with a plus K/9.
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.
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