Will Smith wasn’t on anyone’s fantasy radar entering 2018. Coming off Tommy John surgery — he missed the entire 2017 season — Smith wasn’t even set to open the year on time. The lefty had some quality seasons through the years, contributing to the Royals and Brewers, but he rarely came into fantasy value. His career ERA was in the high-3s and he had just one career save.
Score one for modern medicine. Smith, 10 days shy of his 29th birthday, is turning into a star in the Giants bullpen.
Smith was the closer in Friday’s 2-1 victory at Arizona, and it was the most stress-free conversion possible. He needed just 10 pitches, retired the side in order, recorded two strikeouts. The other out came on a routine fly to right.
Let’s refresh the season totals. Smith now has 24 post-surgery innings for the Giants, and they’ve been exquisite: 10 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 33 K. He hasn’t allowed a homer. The ERA is 1.13, the WHIP 0.71. Over 12 June innings, he’s allowed just one run, struck out 21 men in 12 innings.
The samples are obviously small, but Smith hasn’t shown a platoon deficit this year. Righties have a scant .294 OPS against him, lefties a still-anemic .431. No one’s hitting this guy. He’s not pitching like a specialist.
The Giants have a bunch of save candidates in the wake of the Hunter Strickland injury; we’ve talked about them for a solid week and change. Smith isn’t the only effective reliever on the roster — fellow lefty Tony Watson (who pitched the eighth Friday) has also been excellent, and righty Reyes Moronta shows promise. Mark Melancon can at least play the former-closer card, as can the slumping Sam Dyson. The Giants made it clear before Friday’s game even started — Dyson was getting the night off.
But momentum is often the way to bet with these jumbled bullpens. The last guy to convert is usually the next guy called upon. Smith is probably worth owning in deeper formats simply for the ratio dominance, but perhaps more handshakes are on the way. Even with some moderate overnight activity, Smith remains unowned in a whopping 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.
The Giants have shielded Smith from back-to-back appearances, though he’s done it three times over two months. Perhaps the reins will loosen in the second half. Do what you do, save chasers.