Clarke Schmidt Had A Good Inning

The first inning of any spring training game should come with tempered expectations, but I always find myself like the kid in the bleachers whose parents thought it would be a good idea to just get the ice cream out of the way before the first pitch is thrown. With a chocolate-smeared face and wide eyes, I find myself taking in every pitch as if I’ll never see another game again. So, maybe that’s why my reaction to Clarke Schmidt’s first inning against the Phillies motivated me to write about the Yankee righty, or maybe, he’s a pitcher that should be on your radar in keeper and dynasty leagues. Let me preface this article with the mutual understanding that I am not a prospects guy, I’m just a kid watching from the bleachers taking in the sunshine with chocolate on my face, excited to see baseball again.

The first batter faced was Kyle Schwarber, a big, scary man who hits the ball hard. Schmidt didn’t seem too concerned as he offered an elevated fastball in the zone at 97 MPH that was fouled off. That first fastball came in two ticks higher than what Schmidt has averaged so far in his very few MLB innings pitched, but two ticks higher is pretty good for a pitcher who has struggled with injury. In fact, his four-seamer and sinker were consistently sitting at 96 MPH on Tuesday. Each pitch averaged 95 in 2020 and dropped to 93 in 2021. After coming straight at Schwarber with the first pitch, Schmidt missed with a slider out of the zone, bringing the count to 1-1. What happened next is what piqued my interest. Here you have a pitcher, needing to make an impression, who has already shown a power hitter his fastball and in a 1-1 count throws…a…fastball! That fastball returned a swing-and-miss and nearly touched 97 again (96.6). So what should happen next? A fastball, slider, fastball combination brought this matchup to a 1-2 count and it would now be ok to start throwing some junk. Instead, Schmidt throws a perfectly placed changeup and a called strike that sends Schwarber back to the dugout, one down.

The next batter faced by the young right-hander also entered the box with plenty of experience. But, Jean Segura didn’t stay there long, seeing only four pitches, one of which was a called strike and one of which, the last one, was a swinging strike. The put-away pitch was a very impressive slider away, a pitch that Schmidt has reportedly been working on in spring training.

It was the final batter of the inning that really made me jump up and say, “Man, this guy’s got something!” in a chocolate-fueled bought of excitement. Didi Gregorious took a strike, swung and missed, and finally made weak contact with an in-zone breaking ball for a ground out capping off a one-two-three inning and sending Schmidt back to the dug out pumped.

Now, how much of this first inning was a recency bias, excited to see baseball, event? How much of it was real? Is Schmidt fantasy-relevant? Listed as the number six prospect by Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein’s most recent pass through the Yankees system, Schmidt certainly remains an injury risk for fantasy managers. In 2021 Schmidt spent 133 days on the IL with a strain in his throwing (right) elbow and went through Tommy John surgery in 2017. Schmidt has been known amongst scouts and prospect analysts as a pitcher who attacks the zone. In the few innings he threw in 2021 he was in the zone 42% of the time, almost exactly league average. We only have a small amount of data to go on, but it was impressive to see how little he fell behind in the count in Tuesday’s outing:


Clarke Schmidt Count Breakdown Graph

It was mentioned in the broadcast by SNY’s Meredith Marakovits that Schmidt has dropped his cutter and began developing a sweeping slider. You can see from the images below that he really was using the pitch often, and located it well a few times, not so well a few other times. Maybe he was just working on it and trying to develop more of a feel. While there’s just not enough data to determine how good Schmidt’s stuff is (Eno, are you out there?), it’s certainly intriguing to see such a touted prospect performing in spring.

Clarke Schmidt Zone/Type Chart

The Yankees roster resource page shows Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes, and Jameson Taillon occupying the rotation in 2021, and it doesn’t take an injury-guru to know that there are some question marks within that group. It was mentioned in the broadcast that the Yankees see Schmidt as likely to contribute out of the bullpen this season, soaking up innings when needed. If that happens to be the case, Schmidt could be around for a spot start or two and I would pay close attention. With the command that he showed on Tuesday, his fastball touching 97, the development of a sweeping slider, a knuckle-curve that induced weak contact, and a changeup perfectly placed on the outside corner to lefties, I would consider adding him to a few of my Ottoneu league rosters.

In the second inning, Schmidt took the mound with all the confidence that comes from a young pitcher who just sat down three established big leaguers and fell into some trouble. As this game seems to do at every opportunity it has, it quickly humbled Schmidt in the form of a Nick Castellanos single, an Alec Bohm walk (on a questionable call), and later a hard-hit, RBI single from Garrett Stubbs. I’m not trying to push any narrative here, but Schmidt’s defense didn’t do him any favors in the second. Regardless, he was given the opportunity to come back out for the third and facing the top of the order once again, got another one-two-three inning under his belt. We’ll have to see if this means anything and whether or not the sugar rush, spring training, sunshine-filled ball field clouded my judgment of what is and isn’t good pitching. But just take a look a the recap below and try to tell me this guy doesn’t have potential.

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2 years ago

Awesome and interesting article. Great things you’ve always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post.