Four years ago former first round pick Josh Smoker, injured and unable to lift his fastball past the mid-80s, fell out of affiliated baseball. This afternoon he will join a major league roster for the first time. The Mets will call up Smoker, now 27, as their extra man for game two of Tuesday’s single-admission doubleheader against the Cardinals.
The Nationals selected Smoker with the 31st overall pick of the 2007 draft, a handful of spots ahead of Todd Frazier, Travis d’Arnaud, and Josh Donaldson. But he underwent shoulder surgery in his first full professional season and didn’t make it past High-A ball before the Nationals released him after the 2012 season.
Smoker then underwent a second shoulder surgery, to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff, forcing him to sit out the 2013 season. He signed with an independent club, thinking he’d only give it one year. But despite Smoker posting unremarkable numbers, an independent scout alerted the Mets to the lefty, whose fastball was now reaching the mid-90s.
Smoker torched through Low, High, and Double-A last season with a 3.12 ERA and 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s struggled more in his first round at hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas this season, with a 5.52 ERA, but struck out 13.2 batters per nine innings, the third-most of any PCL pitcher.