With the 2020 season now underway, prospects that failed to make their respective teams’ opening day rosters have arrived at alternate training sites. In a normal year, this would be prime prospect writing season, as we’d follow players’ performances at various levels of the Minor Leagues making all sorts of analysis and predictions about their MLB ETAs, future fantasy output, relevance to the current season at hand, etc. With no Minor League Baseball this season, we don’t have that, but we do know that all of the information there is to know is already out there, with some extra flavor sprinkled in from summer camps. As the summer progresses, I’ll continue to stay in tune with what I’m hearing about countless players situated at those alternate sites. One player I’m especially intrigued by for the 2020 campaign is Clarke Schmidt of the Yankees, otherwise known as Clark D. Schmidt, son of Clate Schmidt, of the late Claudius P. Schmidt, descendant of Cletus Z. Schmidt. The first two were true.
Big D. Schmidt came into summer camp with a fair amount of hype as the No. 88 prospect in the game, but he was slightly overshadowed initially by 21-year-old phenom Deivi Garcia, MLB.com’s No. 92 prospect. During his time at Yankees camp, Schmidt did nothing but prove that he’s close to being Major League ready despite only having 19 Double-A innings under his belt. Before being optioned to New York’s alternate site, Schmidt performed admirably in both simulated and exhibition game action, ultimately earning the team’s 2020 James P. Dawson Award, given to the most outstanding Yankees rookie in spring training. Translation: we strategically gave you this award so you wouldn’t be pissed when we put Mike King on the roster instead of you. Even dating back to Spring Training, Schmidt still had a locker at Yankees camp when everything shut down. And for good reason, because on top of having a plus-fastball (two-seam and four-seam mix) that ranges from 92-97 MPH and an above average-to-plus tumbling changeup, he possesses a curveball that can do this:
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 27, 2020
That power curve compliments the rest of his arsenal pretty much perfectly. Although hitters were still playing catch-up during summer camp, he made some of the Yankees’ best hitters look silly.
For good measure, and just because I’m having far too much fun with D. Schmidt, here’s a quick overlay, courtesy of the Ninja.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 4, 2020
Prior to 2020, Schmidt pitched in parts of two seasons in the Yankees farm system after they selected him 16th overall out of South Carolina in the 2017 MLB Draft. Typically, a college arm taken that high with a refined arsenal and command probably would have made his Major League debut by now, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in May of 2017. That pushed his clock back a little bit, but even without the opportunity to get live game reps throughout the remainder of the summer, there’s a good chance he debuts in the Bronx in 2020.
In 2019, Schmidt competed at three levels of the Minors (Rookie, High-A, Double-A) and performed decently if not greatly at every stop. The largest sample size came at Single-A, where he tossed 63 1/3 frames of 3.84 ERA ball with a 1.31 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and minuscule 0.3 HR/9. That earned him a promotion to Double-A, where Schmidt registered 19 innings and improved to a 2.37 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 9.0 K/9 and 0.5 BB/9. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 19-to-1. Overall, Schmidt the D turned in a 3.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 10.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 across 90 2/3 innings pitched last year.
Since the 24-year-old right-hander only has 114 innings on his Minor League resume, that’s more-or-less the totality of his pro career. He also threw 23 1/3 frames in 2018 while splitting time at Rookie-level and Low-A, and surprisingly, he actually showed control early on coming off of TJS with a 2.3 BB/9 that complimented a 3.09 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 11.6 K/9.
As the numbers show, Schmidt is never going to be a liability with the free passes. The key for him will be learning to actually pinpoint his pitches on either side of the plate, especially his combination of fastballs, to make that power breaker even more lethal. There’s a difference between being able to throw strikes consistently vs. being able to hit the catcher’s target consistently. For Schmidt, that’s the last piece of the puzzle.
Even with where he’s at today, it’s my assessment that he’s Major League ready. I expect to see him contribute at some point in 2020 — and so does Schmidt. Here’s what he had to say at the onset of summer camp, before he started turning even more heads: “I think that I can produce at this level. I think that I can get outs at this level… I think I’m a Major League Baseball player and I can show these guys that I can be good at this level day in and day out.”
Granted, that’s probably what he should say. I’d be pretty concerned if he remarked, “Yeah, not quite sure why I’m here… they’re going to cut me even with the addition of five new MLB roster spots. Sucks.” But the guy has confidence, a healthy arsenal, command and a strong Minor League track record. All of these factors tell me he’ll be pitching in the Bigs sometime in August, especially when you factor in the complete incompetence we have seen from the Yankees training staff over the course of the past year-plus. How fantasy relevant Schmidt is this year comes down to the health of the Yankee pitching staff: will a spot open up in the bullpen, or will an immediate need arise in the rotation? He’s certainly equipped to handle the starting load if necessary, as 18 of his 19 appearances in 2019 came in a starting role.
Seeing as I’m expecting pitchers to have the upper hand this season regardless, I’m putting a bid/claim in for Schmidt once he gets the call. He should excel in limiting runs in any role while providing above average strikeout numbers. If he finds a spot in the rotation and you end up being the proud owner, Clarke D. is going to be Schmitting all over your opponents’ fantasy teams.