Continuing The Times-Tribune’s annual countdown of the top 15 Yankees prospects. I rank 20 prospects, Donnie Collins ranks 20 prospects, and then we average them together. The list takes into account ETA for the big leagues. You’re going to find some guys who might not have ceilings as high as others, but who instead could be in a position to help the Yankees sooner. Since they’re so new to pro baseball, 2018 draftees are not included on the list.
The 16th overall pick in 2017, Clarke Schmidt made it through his Tommy John rehab and made his pro debut last year. He has all the makings of a fast mover in the Yankees system.
Position: Starting pitcher
Acquired: Selected by the Yankees in the first round (16th overall) of the 2017 draft out of the University of South Carolina.
SWB ETA: 2020
Completed his Tommy John rehab and made his pro debut in the rookie Gulf Coast League before finishing up with two games at short-season Staten Island. Overall, pitched in eight games (seven starts) and had a 3.09 ERA with a .943 WHIP. In 23.1 innings, he struck out 30 and walked six.
Here are some videos of Schmidt:
1st round pick RHP Clarke Schmidt returned to the mound in 2018 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was @BaseballAmerica’s No. 31 overall prospect (and No. 17 pitcher) in the 2017 draft & was tabbed by Baseball America as having the Best Control in the SEC. pic.twitter.com/jlVQhAOIb1
— NYYPlayerDev (@NYYPlayerDev) March 19, 2019
Below, Donnie and I discuss why Schmidt lands at No. 6 on the list, what’s good about him and what might need work.
CF: The Yankees liked this guy enough to take him in the first round knowing he’d need Tommy John surgery. Tommy John surgery fears aren’t what they once were, but when you’re picking at No. 16, there’s a lot of talented non-TJ guys out there. So, they must’ve really been smitten with him. He finally completed the rehab last year and got into eight games and posted good numbers (11.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9). Now, he’s far too advanced for that competition to take too much from those numbers, but the biggest thing is he’s back and healthy.
DC: You stole my best argument. He’s a guy who entered the draft hurt and the Yankees scooped him up anyway. I guess you can say they were “Schmidten” with him. The Yankees know him well, as they have scouted the University of South Carolina well. (I believe they have four farmhands now who are former Gamecocks). His stuff is pretty good all around. Really a more transitional starter profile. Low 90s fastball he can run up to the mid-90s. Nice changeup. But really, it’s his breaking ball that made him one of the best prospects in the ‘17 draft.
CF: I grabbed this from his Instagram a couple weeks ago.
— Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) March 26, 2019
CF: That’s a 94-mph two-seamer followed by a 95-mph two-seamer. He seems to have a well-rounded arsenal of of pitches. There are guys who will throw harder. Guys who might have more consistent or more devastating breaking balls. But Schmidt has a chance to have four pitches that are at least average. And for those keeping score at home, you were partially correct with the four Gamecocks in the Yankees system. There’s Schmidt and Jordan Montgomery. The other two, Taylor Widener and Dom Thompson-Williams, were traded. Widener in the Brandon Drury deal with Arizona; DTW in the James Paxton deal with Seattle. Oh, and Tyler Webb recently, too, but he’s also gone.
DC: I remember coming out of college, everyone was raving about the slider. But the difference with him and the other RHP prospects in the organization is that, yes, I do think his secondary pitches all have a really good chance to be usable in the majors. Really didn’t hear much about his curveball, but a lot of video shows him dropping that pitch and getting really weak swings or just stares. I like the changeup. And that fastball has classic two-seam movement. He’d be a really good prospect this year, 10 years ago, 20 years ago.
CF: I think another big thing that separates him from some of the other RHP prospects is Schmidt seems to have an idea of where his pitches are going. Good walk numbers last year, sure, but he also had good walk numbers in college (65 in 229.2 innings).
DC: He’s more refined. He’s polished. He’s not a guy running 98-99 mph fastballs up there and hoping it goes where he wants. Rich Dubee, the old White Sox and Phillies pitching coach who I got to know when he was pitching coach with the Red Barons, used to say a guy like Schmidt “had a knack” for getting hitters off balance, manipulating the strike zone and then putting guys away. I always thought that was a great way to put it. And Schmidt has a knack for pitching that is just a little bit different, better even, than the others in the system.
CF: I don’t have much to base this hypothesis on, other than to say it’s a gut call. I think Schmidt will be Attempt No. 2 (or Attempt No. 2.5 if you want to include Jacob Lindgren) by the Yankees to draft a polished college arm and just fly him through the system. You know they wanted to do it with James Kaprielian, but he couldn’t stay healthy with them — still hasn’t been able to stay healthy — and they eventually shipped him away for Sonny Gray. There’s no reason to think he couldn’t see SWB next year, or even late late late this year, to be honest. If they get aggressive and start him at High A (he was in that work group in spring, so take that for what it’s worth), Moosic doesn’t seem so far away. Just ask Mike King.
DC: Totally agree. I see him in Triple-A next year, health being the key factor. They just aren’t going to slow-play it with the college guys. I think someone like Lindgren, they drafted him to get a big-league reliever soon. That didn’t work. I think it has a better chance to work with true starters though, because of how the college pitchers are used.
15: Phillip Diehl (Traded to Colorado on March 23)
14: Stephen Tarpley
13: Garrett Whitlock
12: Nick Nelson
11: Albert Abreu
10: Luis Medina
9: Roansy Contreras
8: Thairo Estrada
7: Trevor Stephan
6: Clarke Schmidt
Photo: New York Yankees