With two spots open in the bullpen, Josh Smoker is hoping he can prove his worth and snag a spot on the big league roster. But what makes his story interesting is not that he hits 97 mph on the gun at spring training, but rather the events that took place to get him there.
Smoker was a former #1 draft pick for the Washington Nationals, but injuries would lead to shoulder surgeries and eventually his release from the team in 2012. After playing for the Frontier League in 2014, and proving his shoulder was better than before, MLB teams were still not interested enough to take a look at Josh and retirement seemed on the horizon.
But baseball has a funny way of changing the path of many players, and Josh was no exception.
While getting ready to throw a bullpen session, Josh Smoker’s usual catcher was unavailable. York Revolution pitching coach Paul Fletcher was asked to fill in and unbeknownst to Josh, he was a bird dog scout for the New York Mets. What Fletcher saw was obviously good enough to have the Mets come down and take a look, leading to a big league contract for Smoker and another chance at making the big show.
Fast forward a few months and you find Josh at spring training camp sporting a fastball sitting at 95-96 and touching 97-98. Smoker posted a 3.12 ERA while traveling through all levels of the minors in 2015, and struck out 60 batters in 49 innings, which works out to a rate of 11 strikeouts per 9 innings.
With a bullpen consisting of Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Antonio Bastardo, Hansel Robles, and Jerry Blevins, a southpaw fireballer like Josh Smoker could take it to another level.