Yankees banking on big 2024 season from young starting pitcher

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees weren’t going to let starting pitcher Michael King ruin a deal for superstar lefty outfielder Juan Soto, so they promptly included him in the outgoing package. King has incredible upside as a starting pitcher in the MLB, having just made the transition.

Over the 2023 season’s final month, he recorded a 2.02 ERA across 35 innings, showcasing what he can do as a prominent arm. Losing him will undoubtedly be felt, but the Yankees managed to hold onto one of their young starters, Clarke Schmidt.

The Yankees Need a Big 2024 From Clarke Schmidt

At 27 years old, Schmidt is coming off an inconsistent season with the Yankees as a starter, but he pitched 159 innings and showed flashes of quality. He finished with a 4.64 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 8.43 strikeouts per nine, a 70.2% left-on-base rate, and a 43.8% ground ball rate.

Schmidt has a fantastic pitch repertoire and simply ran out of gas at times or struggled with accuracy. When he was on, though, we saw glimpses of what he could be as a more consistent arm. He rarely pushed beyond five innings pitched last season, which does indicate a few problems with his stamina and getting through the opposing batting order for the third time. However, it is essential to note that this was his first season as a primary starter, racking up innings and trying to build consistency.

mlb: new york yankees at chicago white sox, clarke schmidt
Aug 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt (36) delivers a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are banking on him to fill an essential back end of the rotation slot, especially if they land Yoshinobu Yamamoto. He will likely end up as the number five arm just behind Nestor Cortes, who’s coming off a left rotator cuff injury that limited him significantly in 2023.

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Diving Into The Advances Metrics

Taking a look at Schmidt’s advanced numbers, he utilizes a cutter, sweeper, sinker, and curveball. Last season, his cutter generated a .283 batting average with a 22.2% whiff rate and 63% more horizontal movement than the average pitcher. His curveball produced fantastic numbers, logging a .198 batting average against with a 34.5% whiff rate.

However, he needs to improve his sweeper, finishing with a .276 batting average. Schmidt is below average on both vertical and horizontal movement with his sweeper, a pitch that needs to take a step forward and become a prominent piece in his arsenal. His curveball produces 110% more horizontal movement, inducing 16 inches of brake. His sinker is another pitch that could use a bit more life, logging 5% more vertical movement than the average but still nothing to write home about. At just 93.5 mph, it doesn’t have the velocity to throw batters off like Clay Holmes, for example.

Overall, most of his pitches need to see improvement in year two as a starter, but his flashes of brilliance indicate there is plenty of hope for his development and growth. Adding a bit of velocity and break this off-season are important to his long-term development. The one category where he did rank well is his walk rate, landing in the 77th percentile with a 6.6 BB%.

Fortunately, the Yankees have him locked in until the 2028 off-season when he becomes a free agent. He is currently arbitration-eligible and is expected to make $3 million next year. His upside is legit, and the Bombers will be investing heavily to promote it.