Tampa, Fla. — Most baseball players set personal goals for themselves going into each season. For Tampa Tarpons RHP Clarke Schmidt, his goal is a bit simpler: stay healthy.
Schmidt worked his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2017. Now, he is fully healthy at the start of the season for the first time in his professional career.
“I feel great, [it’s] good to get these innings under my belt,” Schmidt said. “This year, for me is just get my innings in, playing start to start and continue to grow and develop my pitches.”
Schmidt was the 16th overall pick of the 2017 MLB Draft. Since then, he has found himself towards the top of every single Yankees prospect list. He ranked number five overall in our Yankees Pre-Season Top 100 Prospects List.
The talent level is apparent. Schmidt has impressive command and has developed some impressive, plus pitches.
The main thing now is making sure to stay injury-free for a full season.
“The number one goal for me is health,” Schmidt said. “I just want to be able to get my innings in.”
So far this season, Schmidt has made three starts for the Tarpons — posting a 3.46 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 13 innings. His most impressive start was the first of the season, where he fanned nine batters in five innings.
Part of his success so far is due to the development of a new two-seam fastball.
“I [used] to mess with a two-seamer in college,” Schmidt said. “I just always liked to stick with a four-seamer.”
While the 23-year-old used to fiddle with it in college, he began to get a real feel for it over this past offseason.
“I started to focus on it in the offseason and coming into Spring Training. Ever since then, the movement has picked up on it so much. I don’t know if it is the balls in comparison to college baseballs, they spin a little different. It has just picked up the bite a little bit more.” Schmidt said. “I’ve always been able to sink the ball well.”
As a result, this pitch has seen much more usage within his last few starts.
“I threw a lot towards the back end of [Tuesday’s] outing and getting a lot of success with ground balls,” Schmidt said. “As long as I am continuing to induce weak contact, then I’m happy with it.”
Due to that, Schmidt has been able to work his way out of some tighter jams.
“If I have a lot of runners on and don’t have a lot of outs, I know I can get some quick outs with a ground ball,” Schmidt said. “My main mentality is to induce a ground ball.”
Schmidt’s addition of the two-seamer has given him yet another wrinkle to throw at hitters to keep them off-balance.
To this point, the right-hander has only thrown 36.1 innings in the minor leagues, so making sure to get reps in will be important.
“The goals for me are to have success and to continue to move up and develop my pitches,” Schmidt said.
The best way to do that is to make sure to stay healthy, and so far, he’s doing just that.