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Yankees 2023 Season Preview: Clarke Schmidt

Schmidt will get a chance in the rotation to start the season. Can he make the most of it?

MLB: Spring Training-Atlanta Braves at New York Yankees Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.