After the Yankees made some offseason moves, it seemed as if the rotation was set going into the 2023 season. At the top, you of course have Gerrit Cole, plus there was the exciting new addition of Carlos Rodón. Besides them, there’s Nestor Cortes — coming off an All-Star 2022 season — and Luis Severino, who — on his day — can be as good as anyone. Last year’s Frankie Montas trade didn’t work out as hoped, but he was penciled in as the fifth starter, and you could certainly do worse there.
However, things never quite work out as expected. First, it was revealed that Montas needed surgery and will miss most if not all of the season. Then, Rodón went down, which will cause him to miss the the start of the season. That left two open spots in the Yankees’ rotation to start the year. One of those spots will almost certainly be filled by Clarke Schmidt.
2022 Statistics: 29 games, 3 games started, 57.2 innings, 3.12 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 23.7 K%, 9.7 BB%, 0.5 fWAR
2023 FanGraphs ZiPS Projections: 30 games, 12 games started, 4.23 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 24.4 K%, 8.6 BB%, 0.5 fWAR
Schmidt had an up-and-down 2022 both in play and in his status on the big league roster. After starting the year in the majors, he was optioned to Triple-A in May. He was recalled shortly after that, but was then sent back down June. They brought him back up in July, sent him back on August 1st, but brought him back three weeks later.
On the field, it was the best season of his career so far, putting up a 3.12 ERA/125 ERA+. Most of that production came in 46 innings as a reliever. With the Yankees dealing with injuries and other stuff, he got three starts, but didn’t perform as well there, putting up a 4.63 ERA in 11 innings.
Prior to the injuries, he was expected to play a similar swingman role, at least to start the season. However, now he will almost certainly be in the rotation on Opening Day. Due to his major league career so far, his projections for this year aren’t exactly anything to write home about. That being said, there is one big reason to get excited about him this year, especially in a starting role.
Schmidt has added a new pitch to his repertoire and has begun throwing a cutter so far this spring. So far, the reviews on it have been pretty good.
Clarke Schmidt broke out a nasty cutter Sunday— Joe Randazzo (@Yankeelibrarian) February 27, 2023
It averaged 2652 RPMs, and if the Statcast data is accurate, that’s where Corbin Burnes is at with his. Burnes averaged 2626 RPMs on the cutter in 2022.
Overall nasty stuff from Clarke. He wants to crack that Yankees rotation. pic.twitter.com/3kLNNG4IIf
The Yankees pitcher who has stood out the most to opp scouts assigned to the team this spring?— Erik Boland (@eboland11) March 17, 2023
Clarke Schmidt received more than a few votes. "Pretty filthy," one AL scout said. Of the cutter Schmidt has been incorporating, an NL scout said: "Nasty. Looks more than legit to me."
While you can only read so much into spring training stats, one noticeable thing that has increased with the addition of the cutter is Schmidt’s strikeouts. He’s struck out 17 batters in 11.2 innings through his March 16th outing against the Pirates. In his spring debut, he retired all six batters he faced, having struck out five of them. His next games were a little iffy, as he allowed six runs in 4.2 innings, but he bounced back in the aforementioned game against Pittsburgh, K-ing seven batters in five innings.
Schmidt has been decently highly rated ever since the Yankees used their first-round pick on him back in the 2017 draft. In both 2020 and 2021, he was rated as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball by several different outlets. While he’s shown flashes, he hasn’t quite been that good so far in his MLB career. However this year, it appears as if he’ll get a very good shot to carve out a big role for himself.