All eyes are on Deivi Garcia, the Yankees’ number one ranked prospect, heading into the 2020 season. Many believe Garcia can join the Yankees’ rotation as soon as next season, but he might not be the only prospect with that kind of potential. Clarke Schmidt, the team’s first round draft pick in 2017, made significant strides in 2019 and could be primed for a breakthrough to the big leagues at some point in 2020.
Schmidt, a 23-year-old right-hander, was selected 16th overall out of the University of South Carolina a month after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Yankees were clearly confident in his recovery path, and he’s put himself back on an upward trajectory since his professional debut in June of 2018.
As a college pitcher with a four-pitch mix, Schmidt entered the Yankees’ system at a more advanced stage in his development than the average prospect. He pitched to a 3.09 ERA in 23.1 innings at the lower levels of the minor leagues in 2018, showing he was fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and ready to prove himself as a healthy pitcher in 2019.
Schmidt did just that. The Yankees started him out at High-A Tampa, and he pitched five perfect innings with nine strikeouts in his first outing of the season. It was the first of six starts in which Schmidt would pitch at least five shutout innings in 2019, including his final two starts of the season at Double-A Trenton.
He combined to record a 3.47 ERA and 10.1 K/9 rate across three levels in 2019; his 56.2% ground ball rate in 63.1 innings at High-A Tampa showed how adept he can be at generating groundballs, even when he’s not missing bats at a high level. For comparison, the Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson led MLB with a 56.9% ground ball rate last season. Schmidt’s opponents owned a .318 BABIP last season, but put the Yankees’ big league infield behind him and there’s no telling how well he might fare as a groundball machine.
This isn’t a knock on Garcia, who was an average of 6.2 years younger than his counterparts at the Triple-A level, but Schmidt’s body of work was equally impressive last season, and there’s a chance he’s going to be more ready to contribute at the major league level in 2020. Keep in mind, Garcia pitched the majority of his season one level higher than Schmidt, but Schmidt had better overall results by the end of the season.
2019 Minor League Results
While Garcia scuffled at Triple-A to end the season, Schmidt posted 13.2 shutout innings at Double-A in his final two starts, surrendering only five hits and zero walks. Schmidt’s dominance at the end of his first full season as a pro suggests he could be ready for a bigger workload in 2020. If he dominates at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the first month or two of next season, Schmidt could become a legitimate option for the Yankees, whether it’s an occasional spot start or a long relief role. All signs point to him being a hard worker and an intelligent pitcher, so don’t be surprised if Schmidt keeps building on his success and fulfills his first round potential in 2020.