Yankees Clarke Schmidt makes MLB.com list of breakout candidates

MLB.com released its annual list of one potential breakout candidate from each of baseball’s 30 teams. For the Yankees, former 2017 first-round pick Clarke Schmidt gets the nod.

Following the news that Yankees starter Domingo German will be suspended for the first 63 games of the 2020 season, there have been questions abound as to who will claim the final spot in the Bombers’ rotation.

While the organization’s 2017 first-round pick, Clarke Schmidt, isn’t currently in the conversation to round out the starting five, his continued development at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, later this year, could get him a potential September call-up. With both Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton scheduled to hit free agency next winter, the big league stage could be set for Schmidt in 2021.

As part of MLB Pipeline’s 30 prospects that are set to breakout in 2020, Schmidt, the University of South Carolina product, was selected as the Yankees’ most intriguing farmhand.

It’s no slight to the Yanks’ No. 1 prospect Deivi Garcia — it’s just that the 20-year-old jumped three minor league levels in 2019 and is already on everyone’s radar. Garcia simply needs more time to harness his control before his jump to the majors.

Following his junior year at USC, Clarke underwent Tommy John surgery a month before the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft; however, that didn’t stop the Yankees from selecting him with the 16th overall pick.

Although the 23-year-old didn’t return to the mound until June 2019, he too, quickly skipped through three levels of the minors, compiling a 6-5 record, 3.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .233 BAA, and 102:28 K:BB ratio across 90.2 innings.

Finishing 2019 at Double-A (19 IP), it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Yankees No. 5 prospect begins the new campaign in Trenton before moving onto Scranton.

Schmidt is a heavy groundball pitcher that possesses a four-pitch arsenal: a four-seam fastball that sits around 92-94 mph but can reach 96 mph, a changeup that falls off the table and two developing breaking pitches — a mid-80s slider and low-80s curveball.

Despite German’s suspension, the Yankees have plenty of depth for their rotation. Therefore they can be patient with Schmidt, who still needs time to smooth out his delivery and pitch on more of a downward plane to avoid further injury and inconsistency.

Predicted by Peter Gammons as a future No. 2 or 3 starter major league starter, Schmidt shouldn’t have any limitations placed on him this season. Jim Callis of MLB.com expects the Georgia native to pitch freely in 2020, which should allow him to reach his potential.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if you see Clarke Schmidt as part of that Yankees rotation in 2020, as well.”