Yankees Top 30 Prospects for 2020: Clarke Schmidt (RHP, #2)
Today we continue our Yankees Top-30 Prospects Countdown for the 2020 season with RHP Clarke Schmidt.
The ace starter at South Carolina his sophomore year of college, Clarke Schmidt was continuing to show more and more dominance his junior year before throwing out his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery, which many thought would ruin his draft capital. The Yankees instead saw a chance to get a stud for cheap (and save money for other rounds), using the 16th overall pick to grab Schmidt in the 2017 MLB draft. Pitching mainly in the rookie leagues in 2018 as part of rehab, Schmidt took it to another level in 2019 making it with the Trenton Thunder and a 2020 Spring Training invite. Some say he may break into the MLB to start the 2020 season, but even if that doesn’t happen he is a solid choice to become a #2 or #3 starter for the Yankees soon.
(Screenshot From New York Yankees Video, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVKPPzO2BsQ)
Clarke Schmidt, RHP (#2):
Age/Date of Birth: 24 Years Old (02/20/1996)
2019 Team(s): Trenton Thunder (Double A), Tampa Tarpons (Class A Advanced), Yankees East (Gulf Coast League)
2019 MiLB Statistics: 6-5 Record, 3.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 90.2 Innings, 102 Strikeouts, 28 Walks, (19 Games, 18 Games Started)
Height/Weight: 6’1”/200 Pounds
Acquired: Signed by the New York Yankees with the 16th Pick (1st Round) in the 2017 MLB Draft.
MLB ETA: 2020
Clarke Schmidt Scouting Grades (20-80 Scale):
What to Know:
In his second year at South Carolina, Clarke Schmidt became the ace of his staff, pitching in 18 games (starting 17) to a 9-5 record, 3.40 ERA, and with 129 strikeouts over 111.1 innings. He would improve on this performance in his junior year, going 6-3 over 9 starts in 2017 with a 1.34 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 60.1 innings. Unfortunately for Schmidt, his season did end early as he required Tommy John surgery (TJS) in late-April. Going into the draft, he was seen as an obvious top-of-the-1st round pick, but the surgery and oblique injury in his junior year put this in jeopardy and sent him to #49 on the Draft 200 board. The Yankees however, saw this as a time to strike with using their 16th Overall pick in 2017 to draft the injured RHP, signing him to well below slot value at $2,184,300 (value of $3,460,000). This helped to sign many other picks that year above their slot value, and Schmidt was already ranked #10 in the Yankees system.
Recovering from TJS through the rest of the 2017 season, Schmidt would look to make his professional debut in 2018. Starting the season ranked #13 in the system, he was originally assigned to play with the Tampa Tarpons in early April. However, it took until June (14 months after surgery) for his first rehab games to occur with the Gulf Coast Yankees East and West, where he would accumulate 6 games (5 starts) through the end of June and most of July. Combined between the two teams he would pitch 15.0 innings to a 3.60 ERA with 20 strikeouts and 1.07 WHIP. He would end the season in the New York-Penn League and the Staten Island Yankees (Class A Short Season) for a quick 2 game stint over 8.1 innings and a 1.08 ERA. At seasons end, Schmidt was already up to #6 in the farm.
Going into 2019, Schmidt would start the season with Tampa Tarpons (Class A Advanced) and ranked #5 for the Yankees, but at the end of April spent a quick 7 days on the IL before doing so again in May. This second stint required a rehab assignment starting at the end of June, where he would pitch back in the GCL to a 3.24 ERA over 3 starts. Luckily, he would return to the Tarpons in mid-July and after going 4-5 with a 3.84 ERA over the two stints and 13 games (12 starts) with a good WHIP of 1.31, great GO/AO of 1.61, and good K:BB of 69:24, he would make his first appearances with the Trenton Thunder (Double A). He would finish the season after starting 3 games there to a 2.37 ERA over 19 innings, a 0.79 WHIP and 19 strikeouts (to only 1 walk). This would also keep him ranked #5 in the Yankees system.
Going into the 2020 season, Clarke Schmidt was invited to Spring Training with the Yankees (non-roster) and has yet to be assigned to any minor league level at this point. He also got a pump to his prospect stock up to #2, and some are even saying that he could potentially break into the MLB after his great showings in Spring Training.
Overall, Clarke Schmidt is a fantastic pitcher who is almost set to become the Yankees #2 or #3 in either 2020 or 2021. He has great control of his three pitches, and while none are incredible on their own, he is able to utilize all of them well towards getting batters out. He utilizes two different fastballs sitting between 92-97 MPH, with a two-seam with heavy sink (vertical movement) and a four-seam with good cut (horizontal movement). On top of this he is able to control his changeup to keep hitters at bay as it noticeably slows down at the plate, and features a low-80s curveball that has good depth overall. Injuries have been a problem and are a note for concern for his durability, especially given an effortful delivery.
What Will the Future Hold?
Looking forward into the 2020 season, Schmidt has an outside chance of breaking “camp” with the team. While he should most likely be playing with the Trenton Thunder to start and then Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders come the end of the season, some scouts were thinking he may have been a possible starter for the Yankees after Luis Severino ended up getting TJS and as they waited for James Paxton to return from injury. However, given the shortened season, it’s quite hard to make any good predictions on his immediate future, but the Yankees still holding out on a minor league assignment is telling.
As a prospect, Clarke Schmidt will continue to sit in the top 3 until he becomes an everyday MLB player. Unless injuries completely dismantle his career, it seems like even his floor is as a starting pitcher, with an upside at #2 and a low end of being a solid #4 or #5. The big question is how many more lists he’ll end up being a part of, which I firmly expect to see him again next offseason. With the short season and time to improve at Double and Triple-A, I don’t see any reason to rush him up for 2020. I look forward to speculating what role he’ll have in the rotation come 2021 (will the Yankees have Tanaka and/or Paxton? When does Severino return? etc.)