The Yankees used their two first picks, the 16th and 54th overall selection, to draft two right-handed pitchers, Clarke Schmidt and Matt Sauer. Schmidt is a junior out of the University of South Carolina while Sauer is a high school senior from Righetti High School in California.
Many scouts had projected Schmidt as a late-first/early-second round pick, but he fell on many draft boards owing to his need for Tommy John surgery, which should sideline him for the remainder of 2017. In a pre-draft interview with MLB Daily Dish, Schmidt went into greater detail about his rehab from Tommy John. “Everything’s going great,” he said. “Surgery went great, the doctors were amazing and the staff was amazing. Everything’s gone smoothly so far so hopefully I can have a quick recovery and get back as quick as possible.”
Schmidt has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and tops out at 96 miles per hour with some sink, along with a plus slider, a curveball that flashes plus potential, and an average changeup. At 6’1” and 200 pounds, he may not have the quintessential starter’s body and scouts have raised questions about his delivery, but he has the athleticism to handle starting.
The righty also improved significantly during his time at South Carolina, with his fastball starting at just under 90 miles per hour in his freshman year. Schmidt struck out 70 batters and walked 18 in 60 innings this season, where he pitched to a 1.34 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP. His father is a retired Marine colonel, which should put any questions about his make-up or work ethic to rest.
Sauer, meanwhile, is an 18-year-old with a high ceiling. The right-hander stands 6’5″ and weighs 210 pounds, but should grow into his projectable frame. Sauer has made great strides in the past year, gaining several miles per hour on his fastball and currently topping out at 97 mph. He has a long delivery that helps him deploy a deceptive slider that sits around 87 mph and fools hitters. While that may help his fastball and slider combination, it raises concerns about durability, and he will likely need to develop a third pitch to remain a starter. His curveball and changeup are currently works in progress, but if he develops a feel for one of those pitches, he could end up as a number two or three starter. Despite the relatively high risk, Sauer’s combination of arm strength, projectability, and high upside makes him a worthwhile gamble.
Sauer has committed to the University of Arizona, but signability may be less of an issue because Sauer will be able to earn the high signing bonus allocated to first and second-round draft picks.
Both MLB.com and Baseball America ranked Sauer as the 28th overall draft prospect, with Baseball America also ranking him as the 10th best right-handed pitcher available.