Clarke Schmidt should have edge over Deivi Garcia even after 2020


Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt should both be part of the future of the Yankees rotation but (shh!) Schmidt still has a higher ceiling.

Don’t let the final images you saw of Yankees top prospect Clarke Schmidt in 2020 cloud your assessment of his future.

Instead, think of where you were in mid-July, when Schmidt was following up his pre-pandemic Spring Training by emerging as the talk of Summer Camp, using his wise-beyond-his-years poise, hard fastball and sharp breaker to make continued statements of readiness against major league hitters. Meanwhile, Deivi Garcia was, in his first introduction to big league work, stumbling and failing to harness his command.

It was perfectly alright. After all, this was the 21-year-old’s first real work on a big league mound. But at the end of camp, Garcia was considered the project, while fans rallied against Schmidt’s demotion as unnecessary manipulation.

Now, ask yourself: After a month-and-a-half of MLB data on Garcia, which trended downwards in impressiveness as his rookie year dragged on, and a few scattershot outings from Schmidt, why should your assessment of either man change?

Yankees fans who were actually in front of their television sets to watch Garcia’s unique ability to own the strike zone with a below-average fastball know that it happened, with the diminutive righty taming the Blue Jays several times to quiet down their onrush while drawing Pedro Martinez comparisons.

However, at the end of the year, Garcia’s line ended up looking quite pedestrian, harmed by a Fenway start where he had next to nothing working, which proved the fallacy of small sample size works both ways. All told, his six starts amounted to a 4.88 ERA, with the six-run, three-inning disaster complemented by four earned runs in his final start against Miami and second start against the O’s. All things considered, a mixed bag with some very strong highlights and a one-inning playoff start for bad measure.

Schmidt? His usage was borderline criminal. The man’s MLB debut was a high-leverage relief outing in Baltimore with traffic on the bases. A mop-up appearance in Buffalo followed that before he started the season finale against the pesky Marlins. Those three outings might as well be zero, and the narrative they provide is worth blinding yourself to.

When both pitchers enter 2021, Garcia will still be the mystifying young righty who showed calmness under pressure, but still doesn’t top 91-92 with his hardest heater. Schmidt, on the other hand, will be a four-pitch pitcher who showed ridiculous command of the zone and made older hitters foolish all spring and summer long, only to be shoved aside and twisted around when the curtain rose on the regular season. We still don’t know why.

Both men have a future here, and will have an opportunity to prove their worth next year (probably). But Schmidt’s arsenal is more nuanced and is a steadier bet, coupled with his similar attitude. Despite his six starts’ worth of experience, Garcia is still harder to explain and more of a wild card.