A confident Clarke Schmidt took the mound in the first intrasquad game in all of MLB on Monday. He succeeded in opening the eyes of many national baseball writers, experts, and pundits.
The pressure was on yet again as he took the mound early Saturday evening, despite an empty stadium in the Bronx.
National and local writers alike took notice not only of his performance but also his demeanor after his first start as a reason to believe he could quickly solidify himself with a potential rotation spot in the shortened 2020 season. Schmidt’s pitch arsenal and command showed true, major-league caliber quality.
He had always been praised for his potential of three to four above-average pitches. Of course, he had also long been knocked and labeled negatively for his injury history as well.
However, it’s safe to say that not only has he recovered, but his pitch arsenal has increased in quality and effectiveness.
All of his pitches looked big-league ready in these initial two innings, but it’s a given in that the hitters are behind the pitchers at that moment in the season, the very first scrimmage.
It usually features a robust and slider-type movement, although, in the clips below, it also features a sweeping, slurve-like break that causes the pitch to end up in the dirt (with a swing, nonetheless).
The pressure was on as the shadows began to creep over the mound, and Schmidt tosses his warm-up in the outfield. Whether he felt it or not is a different story.
Prior to taking the mound at 5:15 pm on Saturday, Michael Kay appeared on the YES Network and had the following to say about his confidence in Schmidt (as a sixth or an as-needed starter):
“I’d go with Clarke Schmidt. So far, he’s shown me he can get outs in the big leagues. He’s got something to prove, he carries himself with a chip on his shoulder… and the guy looks like he has three to four big-league pitches… He has shown them a lot, not only in spring training but also in the intrasquad games here… I would give him that reward.”
It’s a sunny, early evening in the Bronx as Schmidt takes the mound a mere fifteen minutes later, following Kay’s praise. “He looks as if he’s wise behind his years… He’s pitching with a purpose. He wants to make this team.” Kay goes on as Schmidt throws his warm-up pitches.
Schmidt takes the mound immediately attacking hitters inside and painting the outside corner, looking as confident as he was in his prior outing. His two-seam fastball continues to generate excellent arm-side run and life, resulting in a groundball double-play to end the first inning, living up to the profile of the pitch as a true groundball out pitch. A necessity at Yankee Stadium and in his limited minor league innings, he has been particularly strong in keeping the ball on the ground due to the sink on his fastball, with underlying data to support it.
He has a deceptive delivery, hiding the ball well pre-delivery, adding to hitters’ struggles with him. Schmidt’s fastball looked sharp, sitting mid-90s, specifically his two-seamer with arm-side run and life, along with his changeup that sits high 80s. His command was excellent, generating swings and misses on all of his pitches, particularly his fastball, in which he put extra work in this offseason developing. It’s a two-seamer, with excellent command, that at times almost appears as a sinker due to the drastic drop it features. The arm-side run will carry away from lefties and awkwardly in on righties. His command was plus, not just throwing, but pitching, and doing so effectively.
As the second inning opens and Stanton comes to the plate, Schmidt continues to paint the inside corner with his arm-side run on the fastball inside on the righty. A two-seamer down and away in the zone features a drastic vertical sink and a big swing and miss from Stanton.
Schmidt follows it up with his breaking ball for yet another swing and miss from Stanton for a strikeout. The breaking ball starts off middle zone, breaks down and away with slurve-type movement, and Stanton was nowhere near it, an incredibly effective pitch. An incredibly risky pitch to throw, but executed to perfection by Schmidt with confidence. Here is another example of the pitch below:
The next victim? Brett Gardner, as the lefty, sees a breaking ball with a strong slider-type break, starting off the plate away and breaking into the zone for Schmidt’s second consecutive strikeout. Gardner even takes an extra look behind the plate for confirmation on the strike (the pitch features that strong of a break), and he walks away impressed.
These two examples alone are once again evidence of how crucial Schmidt’s offseason development has been. Not only did he improve upon his two-seam fastball, a plus offering, adding more late run and sink to it, but perhaps more importantly, he has further developed his two separate breaking balls, both considerably plus pitches as well. Both were shown here to Stanton and Gardner in consecutive at-bats, and both looked completely fooled as Schmidt confidently gave a smile afterward.
The second inning ends on a breaking ball left somewhat in the zone, he was visibly upset on the mound. Despite it being a groundball out, he knew he made a mistake on the pitch. He shows his emotions, just as after striking out two in a row, including former MVP Stanton, there was a visible smile. Here are some examples of the aforementioned breaking balls:
Shockingly, the third inning opens up with yet another breaking ball strikeout. Yet again starting away to a lefty, preceding two set-up pitches inside, the breaking ball paints the outside corner as the bat never leaves the shoulder of Higashioka. Truly within plus-plus pitch consideration, pending further underlying data and analytics on spin rate, axis, etc., but the pitch has caused numerous top Yankee bats to never leave their shoulders in awe.
Following the game, Clarke Schmidt talked analytics and noted that he is more of a break-x than break-y type pitcher. As we’ve noted all along, therefore the incredible arm-side run on his fastball, and the internal Yankees’ analytics support a rising swing and strike % on his pitches. Despite the fact that he classifies himself as a “break-x” type pitcher, his two-seam also features above-average y% break as well, therefore it’s sinker-type movement at times.
He noted that he’s continuing to work on locating his fastball command and maximizing it’s run against a left-handed hitter or right-handed hitter. To know that Schmidt already features two plus breaking balls, a plus fastball, and all three just beginning their further development and refinement, he’s showcasing the ceiling of a number two starter in the rotation.
Schmidt, thru a mere five innings of Summer Camp thus far, has truly earned the respect of his teammates, coaches, and the organization, along with the national media, while putting Aaron Boone in yet another difficult position to make a tough roster decision.
A rare opportunity has been presented to Clarke Schmidt, and he is fully taking advantage of it. He was selected 16th overall in the 2017 draft, despite having Tommy John surgery that year. The Yankees knew of the risk upon drafting him, but they also knew of the talent within him.
It’s safe to say he has not only been successful in his recovery from TJ, but the Yankees’ player development staff has been patient and taken their time in developing him both physically and mentally to return from serious injury.
The result? A mature, young man that hasn’t thrown above Double-A, but is ready to make an impact at the big-league level. That impact? With the potential of four-plus pitches, including two wipeout breaking balls, well, the possibilities are endless.
For more from Clarke Schmidt on his outing: