There’s hope for every young minor league pitcher out there, and John Smoltz is the proof.
After an atrocious start to his career in the minor leagues, John Smoltz was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame along with the legendary Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Craig Biggio.
Before he was “Smoltzie” he was John Andrew Smoltz of Detroit Michigan. He was drafted right out of high school in the 22nd round to his hometown ball club, the Detroit Tigers.
Smoltz enjoyed a decent first year for the Single A Lakeland Tigers in 1986. He accrued a 7-8 record over 14 starts in 17 appearances. Both his 3.56 ERA and 1.219 WHIP were slightly better than average, but his 47 strikeouts in 96 innings left room for improvement.
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In 1987 Smoltz took a giant step backwards with the Double A Glens Falls Tigers. Smoltz pitched 146 innings over 21 starts and finished with just a 4-10 record. His ERA ballooned up to 5.68 while he saw his WHIP climb to 1.631. Smoltz was hittable in every sense of the word. So hittable, in fact, that on August 12th Detroit traded him to the Atlanta Braves for the world renowned Doyle Alexander (Atlanta’s scouts must have had a crystal ball). The change of scenery playing for the Triple A Richmond Braves didn’t help Smoltz much who went 0-1 in his remaining three starts. Smoltz allowed 17 hits, 11 walks, and 11 runs over 16 innings.
Smoltz returned to Richmond for his third and final minor league season before his call up in 1988. Smoltz impressed the Braves front office with a 10-5 record in 20 stars while sporting an impressive 2.79 ERA and 1.145 Whip. His K/9 went up from 5.7 to 7.6. Smoltz got called on July 23, 1988 and never looked back.
Smoltz became secured his entry into Cooperstown by dominating as a starting pitcher and as a reliever.
His career highlights include eight All-Star appearances, 1995 World Series Champion, 1996 National League Cy Young Award, 1997 Silver Slugger, and the 2002 NL Reliever of the Year among other accomplishments