- Full name Joshua M. Smoker
- Born 11/26/1988 in Calhoun, GA
- Profile Ht.: 6'1" / Wt.: 232 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School Calhoun
- Debut 08/19/2016
Drafted in the C-A round (31st overall) by the Washington Nationals in 2007 (signed for $1,000,000).
View Draft ReportIt was apparent Smoker was bound for success when, as a freshman in 2004, he set a school strikeout record with 126 in 62 innings. He broke the record in 2005, when he amassed 137 in 75 innings, helping his team win Georgia's 2-A championship. Smoker was named co-player of the year in the state, sharing the honors with Buster Posey, now at Florida State. He has been a mainstay on the wood bat and showcase tour for years, and has a portfolio as deep as any player in the draft, including college players. He'll warm up with six pitches and uses them all in games, though his 91-92 mph fastball, 74-76 mph curve and low- to mid-80s split-finger fastball are his bread and butter. He also flashes a changeup and slider. When he stays over the rubber and doesn't attempt to overthrow, he shows above-average command of all of his stuff. He'll run his fastball in on righthanders, snap his curve for a swing-and-miss pitch and lean on his splitter for strikeouts, as it at times can be unhittable. He pitches with fervor and guile, endearing himself to teammates and scouts alike. Smoker isn't expected to get much bigger, but he's athletic and durable, profiling as a No. 2 or 3 starter. He could go as high as No. 14 to Atlanta.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Mets picked Dario Alvarez off the scrap heap in 2014 and hit on another lefthanded-reliever reclamation project in 2015, when Smoker emerged as a late-blooming prospect. Signed for $1 million as a Nationals supplemental first-round pick in 2007, Smoker toiled for seven injury-plagued seasons in the Washington system, twice going under the knife for shoulder surgeries and emerging with a mid-80s fastball. Granted minor league free agency after the 2013 season--which he spent on the disabled list--he toiled as a reliever in the independent Frontier League in 2014 before Mets bird dog scout Paul Fletcher caught a spring bullpen session in 2015 and recommended the 26-year-old southpaw. The Mets signed Smoker on April 2, and by July he had rocketed from high Class A St. Lucie to Double-A Binghamton. He struck out 11.0 and walked 3.5 batters per nine innings along the way, while allowing only one home run in 49 innings. Smoker recovered his velocity in 2015, when he ranged from 94-97 mph and backed it up with two solid secondary pitches that grade near average: a slider and a splitter. Despite the time away from affiliated ball, he recorded his lowest walk rate since Rookie ball. The quality of his fastball and splitter could make Smoker more than a situational reliever, but after joining the 40-man roster in the offseason, he first he must prove himself against Triple-A competition and stay healthy in 2016.
Smoker turned down a scholarship from Clemson to sign with the Nationals for $1 million, but he arrived at his first spring training with a sore shoulder that got worse as he tried too hard to make an impression in big league camp. The Nationals started him slowly in extended spring training, then sent him to low Class A when he started to pitch better. His shoulder discomfort lingered, affecting his range of motion and causing him to work in the mid-80s with his fastball, instead of his former 90-94 range. He pitched better after a demotion to the Gulf Coast League, but his velocity didn't return and he had surgery in November to remove a bone spur from his shoulder. At his best, Smoker's repertoire includes a curveball that can be plus at times and a promising changeup. He's a fierce competitor with a good feel for pitching, but he needs to do a better job commanding his curveball. Not only was Smoker's fastball velocity down in 2008, but the pitch also lacked life. The Nationals hope he'll be back to 100 percent by the spring and regain his former stuff, but there are no guarantees with shoulder injuries. Smoker is coming off a lost year, but he still has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter down the road.
The Braves coveted Smoker and he wanted to play for his home-state team, but the Nationals ruined those plans by taking him with the first pick of the supplemental first round, two choices ahead of Atlanta. Though his velocity dipped at the end of the spring, which is why he lasted until the 31st pick, Washington gave him a slightly above-slot $1 million bonus. Smoker's lively fastball can sit in the low 90s and has touched 94 in the past, and he can run it in on righthanders. He flashes a plus curveball in the high 70s with good depth and a promising changeup. He has a clean delivery and a consistent release point that should translate into plus command. He's a fiery, intense competitor. His splitter was his go-to pitch in high school, when he would use as many as six different offerings, but the Nationals want Smoker to focus on his fastball, curveball and changeup. He needs to refine his fastball command and become more consistent with his offspeed pitches. With the potential for a plus fastball and curve, Smoker draws comparisons to Mark Langston. He should be ready to tackle low Class A in 2008 and could move quickly for a prep product.