A former first round pick of the Nationals, selected with the compensation pick gained when Alfonso Soriano signed with Cubs, Josh Smoker never had much success with the organization that drafted him. He toiled in the low minors until 2012, at which point he was released and had to make his way in independent ball. The Mets snatched him up in 2015, and Smoker posted some exciting results, rising to Double-A and running close to a 11 strikeouts per nine over his 49 innings.
Smoker's primary offering is a straight fastball that can touch 97 or 98 miles per hour but usually sits 94-95. He gets away with the lack of movement thanks to his plus velocity from the left side. Smoker also features a curveball that's nothing to write home about and a decent changeup in the mid-80s that acts like a splitter. He has a long stride that helps his velocity play up even further and delivers out of a three-quarters arm slot. Smoker doesn't rely on deception. as he flies open a bit during his delivery, stepping towards third, or a big breaking ball, so he doesn't profie as a lefty specialist. Rather, he'll be effective against righties and lefties if he carves out a role in the Met bullpen—hat tip to Jeffrey Paternostro for the notes.
The second round of spring training cuts ended Smoker's effort to head north with the big league squad, He wasn't great in his 4.2 innings, but Smoker was a long shot to make the team anyway. With Jim Henderson pitching well and Terry Collins's desire to shoehorn Sean Gilmartin into the last bullpen slot, Smoker is now ticketed for Double-A or Triple-A where he can continue to work out some of the kinks in his game.
Bullpens are nothing if not mercurial, so it's very probable that Smoker gets a shot in 2016. He's probably the first lefty on the minor league depth chart and the third reliever overall, behind Erik Goeddel and Logan Verrett. Smoker has the potential to be a fixture at the back end of a major league bullpen, and he could stick as a middle reliever even if he never reaches that ceiling. With the added bonus of salt in the Nationals' wound should their former prospect succeed for a division rival, there's plenty to dream on with Smoker in 2016.