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No longer a prospect, Clarke Schmidt is still defining his role with the Yankees

Clarke Schmidt has graduated prospect lists, and is still carving out his niche on the Yankees roster.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Last week, Yankees prospect Clarke Schmidt exceeded 45 days of major league service, and in the eyes of MLB.com, he is no longer a prospect. Schmidt has been on a journey through the Yankee system that has seen him progress from a slightly controversial draft pick, to one of the organization’s top prospects, and now to a position where he is trying to carve out a role on the major league roster. With his graduation from prospect lists, let’s take a look at Schmidt’s journey through the organization, and then look at the talented left-handed pitcher who has entered the team’s top-30 prospects with Schmidt’s graduation from the ranks.

The Yankees used the 16th overall pick to draft the University of South Carolina product in the 2017 MLB Draft. Picking Schmidt created some consternation at the time, as he had Tommy John surgery just over a month before the draft and would not be pitching in game action for an extended period of time. Much of the debate over drafting an injured pitcher was muted when the Yankees signed him to a below-slot signing bonus and used the savings to draft and sign highly touted pitcher Matt Sauer in the next round.

Schmidt was on the shelf for over a year after the Yankees drafted him. When he returned to action in late June of 2018, he tossed just 23.1 innings between the Gulf Coast League and Short-Season A Staten Island that season. His results on the field were positive, but there were concerns of another injury when he was shut down in early August with another month of the season to play.

2019 would prove to be another year of starts and stops for Schmidt, but he excelled while he was on the field. Schmidt hit the injured list twice during the season, with one case of tightness in his throwing arm causing concern as it cost him a month of the season starting in late-May.

Despite the two trips the IL, Schmidt fared well and reached Double-A Trenton by the end of the season. Overall, he posted a 3.47 ERA in 90.2 innings pitched. MLB.com and Baseball America both ranked him as the Yankees’ second-best prospect heading into the next season.

Schmidt’s trajectory would be altered by the COVID-19 pandemic as the minor league season was wiped away. He was selected by the Yankees to participate at their alternate training site camp where he would continue to log innings in case he was needed on the major league roster.

That opportunity came in early September as he pitched a pair of games out of the bullpen against the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. He would finish with a start in the last game of the season against the Miami Marlins. Overall, he pitched 6.1 innings and had a 7.71 ERA. Still, Schmidt had flashed the potential that made him a first-round pick, he just lacked the consistency and refinement to work through major league batting orders.

Schmidt was still generally regarded as one of the team’s top prospects heading into 2021, but he again was hit with the injury bug. In limited action he threw just 44.1 innings between the minors and another short stint in the major leagues that season.

Coming into this season, it looked like Schmidt was ticketed to the Scranton rotation, but so far that has not been the case. He has found a spot in the Yankees bullpen, and while he has yet to earn his way into the Aaron Boone’s circle of trust, he has performed well when given the opportunity.

His pitching repertoire still lends itself to the starting rotation, but other pitchers who have worked through the minor leagues as starters such as Mike King, and a former teammate in Garrett Whitlock, could provide models for Schmidt to become an extremely valuable piece out of the bullpen as well. Whitlock is even defining a path back to the rotation for a pitcher like Schmidt.

Schimdt’s high draft status and prospect rankings over the years were based on his ability to be a middle of the rotation pitcher if not better. He still has the potential to move into that role at some point down the road. The Yankees’ willingness to use him in the bullpen, though, indicates that they feel he can best help the team in that role right now.

As Schmidt graduates from prospect status, Edgar Barclay enters the ranks of the club’s top-30 prospects. The 5-foot-10left-handed pitcher utilizes an elite changeup and good slider to pound the zone and rack up outs. He is not going to blow hitters away, but he is already receiving comparisons to Nestor Cortes, based on his size and ability to pitch without relying on a blow away fastball. Barclay is currently pitching for High-A Hudson Valley, where he has 32 strikeouts and a 1.48 ERA in 24.1 innings pitched.

The Yankees’ first-round pick from 2017, Clarke Schmidt has graduated from prospect status for the New York Yankees. Schmidt’s arc has run the gamut from a risky pick, to one of the top prospects in the organization on his path through the minor leagues. He has yet to establish himself as a starting pitcher, and that role does not appear to be available to him in the near future. Watching the team run out a strong bullpen day-after-day proves that there is tremendous value in having a quality pitcher that can come in and perform well in any inning.