The Cincinnati Reds are making moves. This afternoon the Reds picked up Josh Smith off of waivers from the Miami Marlins. To create room for him on the 40-man roster the team designated catcher Juan Graterol for assignment.
The #Reds today claimed off waivers from the Marlins LHP Josh D. Smith and designated for assignment C Juan Graterol.
Welcome to Cincinnati, Josh! pic.twitter.com/bJmxtGivAA
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) October 16, 2019
It should be noted that the Josh Smith picked up today is not the former Reds pitcher Josh Smith, who was right handed. The Josh Smith that was picked up today is a left-handed pitcher who made his Major League debut in 2019. The lefty is now a 30-year-old who pitched for Cleveland and Miami in the 2019 season – though most of his time was spent in the minor leagues.
At the Major League level he pitched for Cleveland between May 25th and June 14th, then for a few days in mid-August. He was placed on waivers in mid-September and the Marlins picked him up, where he spent the final two weeks with them – pitching in six games.
Overall on the season he threw just 12.2 innings with 11 hits, no home runs, 11 walks, and he struck out 14 batters. His ERA was 6.39 in that stretch. Small sample sizes apply in a big way here, but he faced nearly an identical number of lefties and righties. Lefties hit .304/.452/.435 against him. Right-handed hitters struggled, hitting just .154/.333/.269 against him.
Josh Smith found a lot more success in the minors during 2019. The then 29-year-old spent the rest of his season in Triple-A Columbus. While there he posted a 2.73 ERA in 52.2 innings with 24 walks, 7 home runs allowed, and he struck out 74 batters. With slightly larger sample sizes, he again showed that he was better against right-handed hitters than he was against left-handed hitters. With that said, it could be a BABIP issue rather than a skill issue. His strikeout and walk rate were much better against lefties than righties. His BABIP was just .206 against righties, while it was .333 against lefties.
When it comes to stuff, Josh Smith certainly doesn’t jump off of the page. His fastball barely averages 90 MPH. He’ll also mix in a slider in the 78-82 MPH range. Fangraphs pitch values had his slider as about league average when it comes to results, but his fastball was well below-average.
At 30-years-old, Josh Smith isn’t exactly a “build for the future” pick up. There’s not a big upside play here. Until he was called up in 2019 he had never even been placed on the 40-man roster of a Major League team. With that said, this is an interesting move for 2020. The rules are changing next season and the LOOGY is going to be extinct – at least for the time being. Pitchers must face three batters before being replaced starting in the 2020 season.
That’s where a guy like Smith get interesting. In 2019 he had good results against right-handed hitters. The results weren’t exactly there on the surface against lefties. But the underlying stats were good against lefties – except the home run rate in the Majors. He made lefties swing and miss often. And he didn’t hand out walks to lefties, either. Perhaps working with Derek Johnson and Caleb Cotham could help him get a little better against lefties, while maintaining his advantage against right-handed hitters. And if that’s the case, he certainly could be the kind of left-handed reliever that teams are going to need to be searching for moving forward – one who can have at least some success against both lefties and righties.
Josh Smith’s contract situation is pretty simple. He was a rookie in 2019. He used an option during the season, and will have two option years remaining moving forward. His salary will be set for the league minimum while he’s in the Majors.
Juan Graterol has to be used to the words designated for assignment. Unfortunately for the catcher, he heard them once again on Wednesday afternoon. This was the 9th time that the Venezuelan born catcher has been designated for assignment. It was the second time that the Reds have designated him for assignment – the first was in the 2018 offseason, after they picked him up on waivers from Minnesota.
In 2019 the Reds catcher injuries all piled up at once in the middle of July, leaving them to play their 4th and 5th string catchers. That led to Graterol getting the call up from Triple-A Louisville. He would barely play for more than a week before he suffered a serious concussion. On July 26th he was placed on the injured list and he didn’t return until September 7th. He only played in six total games for the Reds, going 4-18 (.222) with no walks or extra-base hits.