New York Yankees Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting, Damon Oppenheimer, selected Clarke Schmidt with the 16th overall selection in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Clarke signed for a reported amount of $2,184,300, which is more than $1 million under slot value. He joined Washington Nationals farmhand Erick Fedde, ex-Vanderbilt pitcher Walker Buehler, and ex-East Carolina Pirate Jeff Hoffman as notable college starters who underwent Tommy John surgery and still were selected in the first round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Schmidt, a junior out of the University of South Carolina, went 4-2 with an ERA of 1.34 that ranked second in the country for 2017. He started nine games for the Gamecocks and tossed 60.1 innings. The Acworth, Georgia native struck out 70, walked 18, and held opposing hitters to a .194 batting average.
In his career at USC, Clarke went 15-9 with a 3.21 ERA. He struck out 254 hitters while walking 65, and held opponents to a .249 batting average.
Schmidt received several accolades throughout this season including being named to USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List in two consecutive season, 2017 Preseason All-America 1st Team (NCBWA) and the number eight overall best prospect in the SEC for the 2017 MLB Draft by Baseball America.
On April 20, 2017, Schmidt left a Thursday night start against the University of Florida with arm soreness. The soreness turned out to be a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm. He underwent Tommy John (TJ) surgery that was performed by Dr. David Altcheck (who is the same doctor that performed Gleyber Torres’ TJ surgery) and was out for the remainder of the season.
Shmidt returned to the mound in 2018, appearing in eight total games between the Gulf Coast League and the NY-Penn League. He earned a 0-3 record with a 3.09 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings of work. His longest start was on August 5 against the Aberdeen Ironbirds where he struck out six batters in 4 1/3 innings of work. He was shut down in early August for reasons not related to his pitching arm.
He has the upside of a number two or three starter on a championship caliber club. His fastball sits 92-94 miles per hour and can reach up to 96. Due to the amount of sink on the pitch it can be graded as plus to plus-plus. His slider and curveball are both graded as above-major league average offerings according to MLB.com. His changeup is the worst pitch in his arsenal, and grades as a 50.
Schmidt was working his way back from Tommy John surgery throughout the 2018 season and his fastball sat mostly at 93 miles per hour at that time. His slider sat at 87 mph and his changeup at 81. He threw his breaking ball with a spin rate of 2,600 RPM and his fastball with a spin rate of 2,500 RPM.
After a successful return to the mound in 2018 for Schmidt, he could open up the 2019 season with the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League.