Written by: Jake Tweedie
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Yankees No. 3 Prospect Clarke Schmidt RHP
24 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1″ Wt: 200
Clarke Schmidt is ranked as number 3 on our Yankees prospects list. He had endured a tough start to pro ball, before making a solid healthy return in 2018. There were question marks whether he should have been called up by the Yankees earlier in the shortened 2020 season, but this break away from competitive baseball has enabled him to focus on aspects of his game that he needed to improve.
The one key area that he has started to work on is his pitching arsenal. An impressive mix of FB, CB, and CH, was boosted further by his introduction of a slider. There are high hopes that he can become a regular starter for the Yankees, and 2021 will be an interesting one for his progression. Alongside Deivi Garcia, the Yankees have a strong, young pitching pool to choose from to fill the gaps they had in 2020. He made 3 appearances in the Majors in 2020, striking out 7 hitters in 6.1 innings. There was a heavy emphasis on his newly integrated slider and less focus on his original CB. I am high on him, and have dove into his talents more below to emphasize why.
After surgery a month before the 2017 draft, Clarke Schmidt missed the entire season before making his long-awaited debut for Yankees East at Rookie-level in 2018. He made just 8 appearances in 2018 but showed glimpses of the form that had the Yankees drafting him despite his injury history.
In his 23.1 inns pitches, he struck out 30 hitters and walked just 6. This form continued in 2019, as his first full season saw him reach A+ and AA. He helped Trenton win the AA Eastern League championship last season, but some time missed due to elbow inflammation brought some negativity on a season that saw 102 Ks and 28 BBs in 90.2 innings.
Clarke Schmidt was called-up to the Yankees Majors roster in August, making 1 start and 2 relief appearances. He pitched 6.1 inns and struck out 7 hitters.
Schmidt’s use of his pitches in 2020 showed his ability to target areas where he feels his pitches perform best, and areas that are difficult for the hitters to get to. For a pitcher that hasn’t played above AA, he adapted well to the task and showed what he could bring the Yankees in the future.
Clarke Schmidt has 2 variations of his fastball. His 4-seamer has cut and carry whilst averaging 95mph. The 2-seamer distinguishes more as a sinker that has heavy action. This again averages around 95mph, and was utilised more in his handful of Major League appearances.
Before his TJ surgery, his fastball sat around the same velocity, but he had better command of the pitch and it was touted as the best in the NYY system. Post TJ surgery there was some rustiness in 2018 before he looked sharp when it came to his first full season in 2019. He has a history of throwing strikes, but his control stood out more than his command on his return to action.
There was an emphasis on his 2-seamer command during Summer Camp, largely in part due to its increased life and run. Despite the majority of his pitches staying within the strike zone, there were a few pitches that lacked control.
His 4-seamer pitches were some of his least accurate. The main ones were towards the outside of the strike zone, but the heat map shows plenty of pitches all around the zone.
This should improve as he spends more time on the field and staying healthy. With a greater emphasis on his command rather than his control, this should return him to the stage where his fastball was one of the best in the organization.
His CB was the main part of his pitching arsenal before the 2020 season. Largely in part due to its depth and high spin rates. It was regularly touching the low-80s but was more utilized as a slider in 2020.
The spin rates saw Clarke Schmidt hit 3000rpm in his first few games in the Majors. It came across as more of a spike-curveball and focuses on dropping slightly below the strike zone. This creates the deception of being in the strike zone, thus resulting in looking strikes or tempting hitters to swing at the pitch.
His curveball was touted as his signature pitch due to how nasty it was in the Minors. There was plenty of this nastiness shown at the Alternate Site before he was called up to the Majors.
Baseball savant identified Schmidt’s pitches as sliders but the movement and spin rates of the lower velocity pitches come across more as curveballs.
Generally his 3rd pitch, Schmidt has a CH that has the potential to be above average. Averaging at 89mph, it bottoms out regularly to have hitters getting out in front.
It was rarely used in 2020, but when it was there wasn’t the control and command we are used to seeing from him with this pitch.
The heat map shows a spread in and around the strike zone. Although this isn’t hugely accurate, he wasn’t punished for it and even picked up a couple of strikes.
It still has plenty of room for improvement but proves to be a valuable 3rd pitch for his impressive arsenal. Heavily used against LHH, he will need to make the adjustment against RHH as well to make it an effective pitch.
One of the most intriguing pitches in his arsenal. Originally he had a 3 pitch mix with his FB, CB, and CH but 2020 saw a shift towards a more powerful CB, thus leading to a slider.
The spin rates that his curveballs saw was integrated into his SL pitch, averaging 3085 in his spell in the Majors. It was also his most-used pitch and resulted in 5 SO.
There was a heavy emphasis on low and away from RHH, and low and inside to LHH.
His spin rates reached a maximum of 3317 with mid-80s velocity. It also has an elite downward movement, seeing a drop of 50 inches on average. This spin and movement see it ranked amongst one of the best sliders in the Majors in 2020.
The heat map of his pitches shows how impressive his pitching placement and focus was.
With the potential to be a plus pitch, there were no surprises that it was his most used pitch in the Majors and could continue to be in the future.
One of the brightest sparks in such a unique season, Schmidt has laid down the marker to be used more regularly in 2021.
Usually, his pitching is fairly accurate, albeit focused more on control than command. This wasn’t the case in the Majors as his BB/9 reached 7.11 and his K/9 was only 9.95.
Generally, his BB/9 is low, being 2.3 in 2018 and 2.8 in 2019. This coincided with his 10+ SO/9 in these 2 seasons as well. The development that he has shown as he has risen through the system has been impressive, and although his free base rates were high in the Majors, this was a significant jump from his highest outing of AA before 2020.
His Majors outings saw a significant reduction in the one tool he prides himself on with his pitching, his control. The heat map shows how varied his pitches were, and that there were too many around the zone, rather than being in it.
Finding that balance of trying to be aggressive with his FB and a hard slider, but ensuring they either end up in the strike zone or just outside to cause problems is key for him moving forward.
Areas for Improvement:
Despite his obvious talents, Schmidt will need to prove himself to be a durable part of the Yankees pitching team.
Since being drafted in 2017, he has only had one season that heavily used him. This came in 2019 but led to missing a month of the season due to minor elbow inflammation.
His pitching as a whole doesn’t need much improving, but the ability to pitch on a consistent basis, at a high level regularly will need to be tested to see what his durability will be like.
There was a heavy reliance on his SL in 2020, so there will need to be some work on his other pitches to have more control and command, in order for them to be worthy of a starting role.
The Yankees should be using Schmidt on a more regular basis in 2021. It may not come in a starting role, but with the lack of innings under his belt, he could become a valuable member of their bullpen as he continues to work on his durability and pitches.
He definitely has an arm that could cause problems at Majors level, there is still plenty of development required before he becomes that regular starting pitcher.
His arsenal contains some quality pitches and does have much better control than some of the pitching prospects in the Yankees system.
I think he will be used in that pen role, to begin with in 2021, with the hopes of picking up a few starts along the way.
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Read up more on Clarke Schmidt and the rest of the 2020 Yankees Top 20 Prospects HERE