Pirates acquire former top prospect Josh Smoker from Mets to boost bullpen
Josh Smoker, the most recent addition to the Pirates bullpen, was once one of baseball's top prospects. But that was 10 years ago.
Now, Smoker, 29, is a relief pitcher hoping to resurrect his career after the New York Mets designated him for assignment Friday and traded him to the Pirates on Wednesday for minor league pitcher Daniel Zamora and cash considerations.
When the Washington Nationals drafted Smoker in the first round (31st overall) in 2007, he was MLB's 11th-best pitching prospect and a player who had no peer in Georgia. He was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in that state and compiled an overall 25-0 record in his senior and sophomore years at Calhoun High School where he also was a race car driver, a passion he gave up to concentrate on baseball.
While leading Calhoun to a state championship as a sophomore, he was 12-0 with a insanely low 0.09 earned run average. The next year, he was chosen for the Aflac All-American Game before recording a 13-0 record and 1.24 ERA as a senior.
Smoker, 6-foot-2, 246 pounds, didn't reach the majors until August 2016, after the Mets purchased his contract from Rockford of the Independent Frontier League before the previous season. As a rookie, he recorded a 3-0 record with a 4.70 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 20 relief appearances.
Last season, Smoker was 1-2 with a 5.11 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 56 1⁄3 innings. After earning a spot on the Mets opening day roster, he was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on May 9. He returned two weeks later but was put on the disabled list June 14. Finally with the big club for good, he recorded a 2.63 ERA in 32 games, including allowing just two earned runs in his final 18 2⁄3 innings.