Prospect Profile: Clarke Schmidt

(AP)
(AP)

Clarke Schmidt | LHP

Background
Schmidt, 21, grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Acworth, and he was one of the top pitchers in the state during his time at Allatoona High School. He struck out 100 batters and posted a 0.72 ERA in 55 innings as a senior, which earned him regional Pitcher of the Year honors. Schmidt’s older brother Clate played four years at Clemson and is currently a Tigers farmhand.

Despite his success at Allatoona, Baseball America did not rank Schmidt as one of the top 500 prospects for the 2014 draft, or as one of the top 43 draft prospects in Georgia. He went undrafted out of high school and followed through on his commitment to South Carolina, where he was teammates with current Yankees prospects Taylor Widener and Dom Thompson-Williams. Schmidt missed being Jordan Montgomery‘s teammate by one year.

As a freshman Schmidt threw 58 innings with a 4.81 ERA and a 55/20 K/BB across ten starts and eight relief appearances. Life in the SEC can be rough for a freshman hurler. After the season Schmidt played summer ball in the Coastal Plains League, where he made three starts and allowed 13 runs (eight earned) in 8.2 innings for the Florence RedWolves. Ouch.

The 2015 season was Schmidt’s breakout year. He threw 111.1 innings with a 3.40 ERA and a 129/27 K/BB as a sophomore and emerged as South Carolina’s ace. His first postseason start did not go well (4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 8 K vs. Rhode Island) but the second was better (6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K vs. Oklahoma State). The Gamecocks lost both starts. The second ended their season.

Schmidt’s junior year was outstanding. He threw 60.1 innings with a 1.34 ERA and a 70/18 K/BB while pitching through a minor oblique issue, and was as good as any college pitcher in his country. Schmidt was so good he was named to the Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List, which is essentially a candidates list for the Golden Spikes Award, the baseball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

Unfortunately for Schmidt, he left his April 20th outing against Florida with forearm tightness after throwing 84 pitches in 5.1 innings. Tests revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He had Tommy John surgery a week later — Mets team doctor Dr. David Altcheck performed the procedure — ending his college career. Schmidt went 15-9 with a 3.21 ERA and 254/65 K/BB in 229.2 innings at South Carolina.

Considered a likely first round pick before blowing out his elbow, Schmidt was ranked as the 32nd best prospect in the 2017 draft by Baseball America, and the 49th best prospect by MLB.com. The Yankees selected Schmidt with their first round pick, the 16th overall selection. He signed a few weeks later for an $2,184,300 bonus, well below the $3,458,600 slot value.

Pro Debut
Schmidt has not yet made his pro debut because of the whole Tommy John surgery thing. The last rehab update came in mid-September, when Schmidt told Brendan Kuty everything is going well. “Everything’s been great so far. I’m just excited to take the next step and to keep working,” he said. Schmidt told Kuty he started throwing three weeks prior to their conversation, so his rehab is right on schedule. (There haven’t been any updates on his rehab since, though that’s not unusual at all.)

Scouting Report
After sitting in the mid-to-upper-80s in high school, Schmidt gradually added velocity in college as he matured physically, and was comfortably sitting 91-93 mph and touching 96 mph before blowing out his elbow this year. His fastball is more of a running two-seamer than a four-seamer.

A hard mid-80s slider is Schmidt’s bread and butter and the reason he was drafted so high despite Tommy John surgery. He can vary the break on the slider — he can sweep it side-to-side or have it drop down out of the zone — so much so that it’ll sometimes look like a curveball. The slider was considered a big league out pitch before the elbow injury. Schmidt also throws a promising mid-80s changeup that was above-average on its best days.

There were two concerns about Schmidt heading into the 2017 draft. One, his delivery can be a little stiff and that will cause his command to waver at times. And two, he’s not the biggest guy at 6-foot-1 and 200 lbs., so there were questions about his durability. The Tommy John surgery means those questions will persist going forward.

Teams aren’t scared away by Tommy John surgery these days and one of the reasons the Yankees felt comfortable taking Schmidt is his makeup. He’s an absolute bulldog on the mound, and he’s drawn rave reviews for his work ethic and makeup for years. (He skipped summer ball in 2015 to be with his family after his brother was diagnosed with cancer.) The Yankees always target great makeup guys and Schmidt is no different. They were confident he’d work hard during his rehab.

2018 Outlook
These days teams give pitchers — especially young pitchers and prospects — closer to 14-16 months to rehab following Tommy John surgery. The days of a 12-month rehab are long gone. Given the timing of Schmidt’s surgery, it’s unlikely he’ll take the mound in an official minor league game until the various short season leagues begin in late-June. The Yankees will bring him along slowly in Extended Spring Training until then. The 2018 season will effectively be a rehab year for Schmidt. Get healthy, shake off the rust, and prepare to turn it loose in 2019.

My Take
I have trouble separating my opinion of Schmidt as a prospect with my opinion of the decision to use the 16th overall selection on an injured pitcher. Schmidt is a quality prospect, at least when healthy. I always worry about short-ish pitchers being home run prone, but otherwise he has a good fastball and a great slider, and the makings of a very good changeup. Add in his makeup and competitiveness and you’ve got a quality pitching prospect. No doubt.

I just didn’t love the decision to select an injured pitcher that high in the draft though, not with other perfectly healthy and equally talented college starters still on the board. (Florida righty Alex Faedo and Oregon lefty David Peterson were selected not long after Schmidt.) Based on various post-draft interviews with scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, it seems Schmidt was Plan B. The Yankees were originally targeting players who came off the board before their pick, and when they weren’t available, they went with Schmidt because they knew they could sign him below slot and spread the savings around.

I know Tommy John surgery has a very high success rate, and I know Schmidt’s rehab is going well so far, but elbow reconstruction is a significant risk. There can be complications or setbacks, his pre-surgery stuff might not fully return, all sorts of stuff can happen. The pre-surgery version of Schmidt was a very good prospect. Will he be the same guy after he completes his rehab? The Yankees believe so. I think it was too big of a risk at that point in the draft. It’s not like Schmidt was a consensus top five draft prospect they were able to steal. They took him about where he was expected to go when he was healthy, except he wasn’t healthy.

DotF: Littell dominates, Mateo makes AA debut in Trenton win

A few quick notes to get us started:

  • As expected, SS Jorge Mateo was moved up from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, and IF Abi Avelino was moved up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton. Also, IF Angel Aguilar has been moved up from Low-A Charleston to High-A Tampa as well, the team announced. That’s all one big chain reaction to Starlin Castro getting hurt and SS Tyler Wade being called up to MLB.
  • RHP Clarke Schmidt, this year’s first round pick, told Matthew Martell his Tommy John surgery rehab is going well. He expects to begin throwing in roughly two months. Schmidt had surgery in May. “They said the time frame should be about September for me to start throwing again. Right now, it’s just slight mobility work and easing back into it. The progressions have come quickly, so I can tell everything’s going well so far,” he said.
  • I missed this yesterday, but RHP Domingo Acevedo was included in Baseball Prospectus’ Monday Morning Ten Pack (subs. req’d) “(Saying) there’s a ton of violence in the delivery feels almost kind. There’s bad head movement, a ton of torque, and a severe fall-off at the end. I just don’t think it’s repeatable thirty or more times a year for 100 pitches. I do think he could be a heck of a reliever letting it fly for an inning or two,” said the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended due to rain with one out in the top of the second. It’ll be completed tomorrow. Stinks a RHP Chance Adams start was washed away. OF Dustin Fowler did hit a home run before the rain came. Here’s the video. Here’s the box score. I’ll update the stats when they finish the game tomorrow.

Double-A Trenton (10-4 win over Richmond)

  • SS Jorge Mateo: 2-5, 1 R, 3 K, 1 CS — both hits were infield singles … nice little Double-A debut
  • 2B Thairo Estrada: 2-5, 1 R, 1 SB
  • CF Rashad Crawford: 1-4, 2 R, 2 RBI
  • LF Zack Zehner: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB — the 2015 18th round pick is quietly hitting .292/.386/.412 this year
  • RHP Zack Littell: 6 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 BB, 10 K, 2 WP, 4/3 GB/FB — 59 of 97 pitches were strikes (61%) … ten strikeouts in seven innings of one-run (unearned) ball in his first Double-A start, now ten strikeouts in six shutout innings in his second Double-A start
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 24 of 38 pitches were strikes (63%) … first runs allowed in eight appearances since coming back from Tommy John surgery

[Read more…]

2017 Draft: Yankees sign first rounder Clarke Schmidt and second rounder Matt Sauer

Schmidt. (The Post ad Courier)
Schmidt. (The Post and Courier)

The Yankees have signed their top two selections in the 2017 amateur draft. The team announced deals with South Carolina right-hander Clarke Schmidt (first round, 16th overall) and California high school right-hander Matt Sauer (second round, 54th overall) earlier this afternoon. Sauer posted photos of his contract signing on Twitter.

Here is the bonus information:

  • Schmidt: $2,184,300 per Jack Curry ($3,458,600 slot)
  • Sauer: $2,500,000 per Jim Callis ($1,236,000 slot)

Schmidt, 21, received a below-slot bonus because he is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He had the procedure in May, so he’s going to be out until midseason 2018. As our Draft Pool tracker shows, the Yankees now have a little less than $460,000 in bonus pool space remaining before hitting the penalties. They’ve maxed out their spending pool the last few years. I imagine that $460,000 is going to a late round pick.

Based on the way things played out, the Yankees planned all along to sign Schmidt below-slot — I’m guessing they had a pre-draft agreement in place — and spend the savings on a highly touted player who slipped into the second round. That happened to be Sauer. I think this was Plan B. Plan A was using the first round selection on a player who was no longer on the board when that pick rolled around, so they called an audible.

Anyway, Baseball America ranked Schmidt as the 32nd best prospect in the draft class. MLB.com ranked him 49th and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him 74th. He was considered a mid-first round talent before blowing out his elbow last month. Here is a piece of MLB.com’s free scouting report:

Schmidt relies heavily on a 92-94 mph fastball that can reach 96 and features power sink. Both his slider and curveball can be plus pitches at times but also lack consistency, and he also mixes in a decent changeup. He generally throws strikes but can be vulnerable if his pitches wander up in the strike zone … He maintained his improved velocity until he got hurt this spring, but scouts don’t love his delivery and now have even more questions about his durability.

Sauer was ranked as the 28th best prospect in the draft class by both MLB.com and Baseball America. Keith Law ranked 67th. Here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s scouting report:

He’s reached 97 mph at times this spring and has sat comfortably in the 91-95 mph range in most starts. He combines that with a nasty slider, up to 87 mph, thrown from a three-quarter slot with good power, bite and deception. The changeup is a distant third pitch … Some scouts are not in love with Sauer’s arm action and see him more as a potential power bullpen type of pitcher. Others see a potential three-pitch mix, two above-average to plus offerings, with the build to be a rotation workhorse.

The draft signing deadline is Friday, July 7th, so two weeks from yesterday. The Yankees have already handled all their major business, however. They’ve signed each of their picks in the top 17 rounds plus several late rounders. I expect them to spend that remaining $460,000 ($457,949 to be exact) on someone. That has been their M.O. in the draft pool era. To spend as much as possible without incurring penalties forcing them to surrender next year’s first round pick.

2017 Draft: Yankees play the bonus pool game on Day One

Schmidt. (AP)
Schmidt. (AP)

The 2017 amateur draft is now underway. A total of 75 picks were made Monday night, during Day One of the draft, including the Yankees’ first (16th overall) and second (54th overall) selections. With those picks, the Yankees did something they had never done before in the draft pool era. They (presumably) cut a deal with their first round pick so they could spend big on their second rounder. Let’s review New York’s two picks from Day One.

Yankees gamble on Schmidt

At first blush, I wasn’t thrilled with the Yankees first round pick, South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt. I imagine I wasn’t alone. Schmidt’s a good prospect, don’t get me wrong, but he also had Tommy John surgery in April. Why take an injured college pitcher when healthy comparable college pitchers were still on the board? The Yankees had been connected to Oregon LHP David Peterson for weeks and he was still available, for example.

“Schmidt’s got four pitches that at times are all plus. He has command, he has makeup,” said scouting director Damon Oppenheimer in a statement. “We really like his delivery. He’s got a chance to be a top end of the rotation type of guy who combines pitchability with power stuff. And you always like it when they’re the Friday night guy, pitching and having success in that conference … The (surgery) results were positive and we feel really good about the rehab. He should be back pitching at full strength in approximately 12 months.”

Schmidt was a potential top 10-15 pick before blowing out his elbow thanks to a power arsenal with strikeout stuff. He struck out 70 in 60.1 innings for the Gamecocks this spring before needing elbow surgery, and Baseball America’s scouting report (subs. req’d) makes you can’t wait to see Schmidt healthy and back on a mound:

(This) spring he was routinely touching 95-96 mph with his four-seamer and sitting comfortably in the low 90s. He also throws a heavy two-seamer, although his four-seamer shows good movement as well. Schmidt’s slider has developed into one of the better breaking balls in the college class, a strikeout pitch in the mid-80s with tilt. He also flashed an above-average changeup at times, with sinking movement to his arm side … Before the surgery, Schmidt’s stock was steadily rising, and to some evaluators, he had inserted himself into the uppermost tier of college pitching.

Sounds good! But, you know, the elbow. Sure, Tommy John surgery has a very high success rate, but it’s not perfect. The Yankees have steered clear of injured pitchers in recent drafts, most notably Brady Aiken two years ago, and I’m sure the Andrew Brackman flame out was one of the reasons. The Yankees drafted Brackman knowing he needed Tommy John surgery, and all the missed development time was too much to overcome.

So again, why draft an injured college pitcher when comparable healthy college pitchers were still on the board? There are two possible answers. One, the Yankees really like Schmidt. I mean really like him. They must think he’s a no-doubt top ten guy to take him that high despite recent elbow construction, and they must also think he is very likely to make a full recovery. Or two, they know they can sign Schmidt to a below-slot bonus to manipulate their bonus pool.

Given their second round pick, the latter seems much more likely. They’re going to sign him cheap. The Yankees either got Schmidt to agree to a below-slot number before the draft or feel comfortable enough with his willingness to take a below-slot bonus to draft him in the first round. That 16th overall pick comes with a $3,458,600 slot bonus. Cutting a deal with Schmidt would free up a lot of bonus pool space to spend on other players, such as …

Planning to spend big on Sauer

With their second round pick, the 54th overall selection, the Yankees selected California HS RHP Matt Sauer — a Southern California kid, of course — and suddenly it all started to make sense. Sauer was a consensus late first round who really shot up draft boards this spring and was considered by some to be a potential tough sign given his commitment to Arizona. Now we know where any bonus pool money saved with Schmidt is going.

Prior to the draft, both MLB.com and Baseball America ranked Sauer as the 28th best prospect in the draft class — Keith Law (subs. req’d) isn’t as much of a fan and ranked him 67th — because he possesses a live arm with two knockout pitches. From MLB.com’s scouting report:

Sauer brings the potential to have premium velocity from his 6-foot-4 frame. He’s reached 97 mph at times this spring and has sat comfortably in the 91-95 mph range in most starts. He combines that with a nasty slider, up to 87 mph, thrown from a three-quarter slot with good power, bite and deception. The changeup is a distant third pitch, but he hasn’t needed it much against high school competition.

The lack of a reliable changeup is one of the biggest knocks against Sauer, though it’s not terribly unusual for a top high school pitcher to lack a changeup. They rarely need it to get outs. Another popular knock against Sauer is his delivery, specifically his arm action, which some believe is too long in the back and robs him of command. Here’s some video. The quality of his stuff is obvious, as is the lengthy arm action and command issues:

It’s easy to understand why Sauer was drafted so high. (Going 54th overall is pretty cool!) The kid throws fire. It’s also easy to see he’s a work in progress. The Yankees will have to work with Sauer to iron out his mechanics and develop a changeup. Won’t be easy! But the Yankees are banking on Sauer’s upside and their improving track record of developing arms.

“Sauer is a projectable high school right-hander who is athletic, with a ‘now’ fastball and a plus slider,” said Oppenheimer in a statement. “He really has a good way about his aggressiveness and makeup on the mound. We see a chance there for a starter with power stuff.”

We should look at the Schmidt and Sauer picks together because they are connected through the bonus pool. Like I said, Schmidt is slotted for $3,458,600. Sauer, on the other hand, is slotted for $1,236,000. That’s $4,694,600 between the two of them. Maybe they’ll wind up with even split? Roughly $2.35M each? Schmidt gets below-slot because he recently had his elbow cut open and Sauer gets over-slot because, well, that’s what it’ll take to get him to turn pro.

Why didn’t the Yankees take Sauer in the first round and Schmidt in the second round? Wouldn’t you rather take the high upside kid first to make sure you actually get him before cutting deals? Yes, in theory, but keep in mind that if a player doesn’t sign, the team loses all the pool money associated with that pick. Taking Sauer in the first round and having him walk away means losing $3,458,600 in bonus money. Yikes. The Yankees would rather roll the dice with the $1,236,000 in second round bonus pool money.

Chances are the Yankees did not specifically target Sauer for an over-slot bonus in the second round. He was probably one of several players they were looking at for that 54th overall pick. Among the other notable prospects to come off the board shortly after Sauer were Minnesota HS RHP Sam Carlson and Florida HS SS Mark Vientos, for example. California HS SS Nick Allen and Louisiana HS RHP Blayne Enlow are still on the board now and could have also been in the mix for that second round pick.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: the Yankees like Schmidt and think he can be a really good pitcher when healthy, but they also recognized his leverage is shot following Tommy John surgery. By taking him in the first round and (again, presumably) getting him to agree to a below-slot bonus, it would leave them bonus pool money to spend on another player(s) later. In this case that player is Sauer. If Sauer had come off the board before that 54th pick rolled around, maybe it would have been Carlson. Or Allen. Or whoever.

Last year the Yankees did the exact opposite of this strategy. They took the top available talent, Blake Rutherford, with their first round pick, then figured out how to save enough bonus money to pay him later. This year they saved the bonus pool money first, then waited to see who would be available later. And who knows? Maybe they’ll save enough with the Schmidt pick to go over-slot with their third round pick as well. That would be cool.

I should note this strategy is not particularly new or unique to the Yankees. Teams have been doing it since the draft pools were put in place. Most of the time it happens with teams at the very top of the draft, with the picks tied to huge slot values. They turn that one big bonus slot into multiple high-end prospects. Not many teams have done it in the middle of the first round, so in that sense the Yankees are unique. Overall though, this has been done before. It’s not new.

For now, the Yankees landed two nice power arms with upside on Day One. One of them happens to be broken at the moment. I didn’t like the Schmidt pick when it happened because Tommy John surgery is a big risk and I still don’t love it overall. Healthy players are cool. It’s not like Schmidt is getting a tooth pulled or something like that. Once the Yankees went for Sauer, arguably the best player still on the board, with their second pick, their strategy became clear. They were planning to pounce on whichever highly ranked prospect slipped into the second round.

2017 Draft: Yankees select RHP Clarke Schmidt in first round

(The Times and Democrat)
(The Times and Democrat)

Monday night, the Yankees selected South Carolina RHP Clarke Schmidt with their first round selection (16th overall) in the 2017 amateur draft. He is the fourth college player they’ve taken with their six first round picks since 2013.

Schmidt, 21, had Tommy John surgery earlier this year and is still rehabbing. He had a 1.34 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 18 walks in nine starts and 60.1 innings before blowing out his elbow this spring. Prior to getting hurt, Schmidt was considered a potential top 10-15 pick. The various draft rankings all reflect Schmidt’s injury:

Here’s a piece of MLB.com’s scouting report:

Schmidt relies heavily on a 92-94 mph fastball that can reach 96 and features power sink. Both his slider and curveball can be plus pitches at times but also lack consistency, and he also mixes in a decent changeup. He generally throws strikes but can be vulnerable if his pitches wander up in the strike zone.

And here’s some video:

Clearly, the Yankees are rolling the dice big time here. They’re hoping to get the pre-Tommy John surgery version of Clarke once he’s done rehabbing, which is always risky because Tommy John surgery is a very serious procedure. Given the timing of Schmidt’s elbow reconstruction he figures to return to the mound at midseason 2018.

The 16th overall pick comes with a $3,458,600 slot bonus. I’m not sure when the signing deadline is this year, but it’s usually in mid-July. I wonder if the Yankees and Schmidt agreed to a deal before the draft for below slot money, freeing up cash for later picks. Hmmm.