Our 40 in 40 series, which take a look at each player on the 40 man roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates, continues today with a look at left-handed reliever Josh Smoker.
Smoker was acquired in a late-January trade with the New York Mets for Daniel Zamora and cash.
The 29-year old Smoker was designated for assignment by the Mets after posting a 5.11 ERA in 54 relief appearances in 2017. He struck out 10.9 batters per nine but also walked 5.1 per nine innings.
Because of various injuries, Smoker totaled only 191.2 innings since 2012, and will need to show improved control to contend for a spot in Pittsburgh’s bullpen.
Low Risk, High Reward
Smoker is the typical low-risk, high-reward move that Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington likes to make.
He’s got a power arm and high strike out potential, which is how Huntington has gone about reshaping the bullpen.
His control and the ability to keep the ball in the ballpark has been concerning his entire career, but Smoker has posted good strikeout rates.
The way he finished last season may have played a role in the Bucs acquiring him.
His overall numbers were ugly, but in the month of September, his K/9 jumped from 10.86 to 12.71. He allowed less than a hit per inning and the xFIP dropped from 4.38 to 2.39.
More importantly Smoker cut his BB/9 in half last September from 5.11 to 2.38.
It’s a very small sample size, but the Bucs are banking on Smoker finally putting things together as a reliever.
Longshot to make the team
Coming into spring training, Smoker looked like a guy to keep your eyes on and while that still may be the case, I don’t see him breaking camp on the 25-man roster.
In addition, if the Pirates were going to keep another one, and they very well may, the recent signing of veteran Kevin Siegrist doesn’t help Smoker’s chances much.
Brault, Siegrist, Smoker and Jack Leathersich are competing for one, maybe two spots in the Pirates bullpen as left-handed relievers.
Throw in the fact that Smoker has two options left and he’s likely ticketed to start the season in Indianapolis.