It seems like it’s only a matter of time before Clarke Schmidt is wearing Yankees pinstripes in the big leagues.
The 2017 first-round draft pick out of South Carolina was poised to at least challenge for a rotation spot this season even before the coronavirus outbreak suspended the season until July. Now, the hype is getting real.
At 24 years old, the right-hander was sterling in an intrasquad game earlier this week against the Yankees’ top lineup, striking out four in two scoreless innings of work.
Among his victims was Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton — two of the game’s premier hitters that looked especially overmatched behind a dominant slider.
— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) July 6, 2020
The superlatives began pouring in from his teammates.
“Clarke made me look silly,” first baseman Luke Voit said.
“There’s an absolute presence to him,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He believes he belongs here.”
“He has that confidence and a little bit of that swagger. You see his stuff and how it plays,’’ JA Happ, who opposed Schmidt during that intrasquad game, said. “I think he definitely has a bright future.”
But will that anticipated MLB debut come in 2020?
No one is quite sure yet, even though Schmidt remains adamant that he wants to make his MLB debut this season.
There is some traffic ahead of his road to the mound at Yankee Stadium. The current starting staff this season expects to be something resembling the fivesome of Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, JA Happ, and Jordan Montgomery.
Tanaka is working his way back from a concussion suffered when he took a Giancarlo Stanton line drive off the head on Saturday while Paxton will be making his first starts since undergoing back surgery earlier this year, and Montgomery is coming off two appearances in 2019 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. So there are opportunities for Schmidt to squeak into the big club.
Even if openings were to arise, though — which was further enhanced by the suspension of Domingo German — the Yankees still have Jonathan Loaisiga to provide spot starts during a shortened season.
Loaisiga’s stuff isn’t nearly as explosive as Schmidt’s early showing, but he’s eaten innings when he’s had to.
Plus, Schmidt has not appeared in a single game over the double-A level in the minors, going 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts with Trenton last season.
That might be cause for some hesitation when it comes to throwing him into the big leagues during a shortened season when every game has added importance, but there are obvious reasons why the Yankees should have a lot to be excited about.