Rich in position prospects, the Yankees went for pitchers in the first round of the draft—even though the initial pick had Tommy John surgery in April.
With the 16th overall pick the Yankees took South Carolina righthander Clarke Schmidt despite the possibility that he won’t be ready to pitch until next June at the earliest.
A 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior, Schmidt ranked second in the nation with a 1.34 ERA in nine starts for the Gamecocks. The 21-year-old recorded 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and held opposing hitters to a .194 average.
“Schmidt’s got four pitches that at times are all plus. He has command. He has makeup,” Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said. “We really like his delivery. He’s got a chance to be a top-end-of-the-rotation-type of guy who combines pitchability with power stuff.
“And you always like it when they’re the Friday-night guy, pitching and having success in the (Southeastern) Conference.”
Regarding Schmidt’s surgery, Oppenheimer added: “The results were positive and we feel really good about the rehab. He should be back pitching at full strength in approximately 12 months.”
Schmidt’s older brother Clate is a righthander in the Tigers organization.
This marks the third time in four years that the Yankees have used their top pick on a college pitcher, after taking UCLA righthander James Kaprielian in 2015 and Mississippi State lefthander Jacob Lindgren in 2014.
In the second round the Yankees chose righthander Matt Sauer from Righettit High in Santa Maria, Calif.
“Sauer is a projectable high school righthander who is athletic, with a ‘now’ fastball and a plus slider,” Oppenheimer said. “He really has a good way about his aggressiveness and makeup on the mound. We see a chance there for a starter with power stuff.”