NEW YORK -- Clarke Schmidt displayed an impressive blend of confidence and polish in his first big league Spring Training camp, prompting manager Aaron Boone to state that he believes the right-hander could play a substantial role in the Majors as soon as this year.
That performance was rewarded as the right-hander was named the recipient of the 2020 James P. Dawson Award, which is issued annually to the most outstanding Yankees rookie in Spring Training. The award is typically handed out in March, but this year’s announcement was delayed until the conclusion of Summer Camp.
“I learned that I can compete at this level,” Schmidt said. “You don't really know how you're going to fare until you get up here. I felt very, very comfortable. I was not out of sorts at all. To me, it was just another baseball game in a bigger stadium. I was happy to be able to be up here the whole time during camp and be able to compete with these guys, day in and day out. It was a lot of fun for me.”
Rated as the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, the 24-year-old Schmidt made four official Spring Training appearances (one start), posting a 2.57 ERA (7.0 IP, 2 ER) with eight strikeouts.
“You learn a lot being around these guys and learning their routines, whether it's a starter or a reliever,” Schmidt said. “You learn a lot about their work ethic. I resemble myself to a lot of these guys, the way they go about their business in preparation, whether it's prepping for a start or going through scouting reports. I learned that you've got to be very diligent. You've got to be very consistent in your routine, your work that you put in the training room and the weight room.”
The Yankees’ first-round selection (16th overall) of the 2017 Draft, Schmidt entered the 2020 season tabbed by Baseball America as having the “Best Curveball” among all Yankees farmhands. Schmidt said that any nerves he had about being around the big leaguers dissipated in February.
“There was a time when I threw my first live BP, which was on the main field down in Tampa,” Schmidt said. “I faced guys like Gary [Sánchez] and I threw really well. It was like one of those feelings of just like, ‘I belong.’ I was like, ‘OK, I can do this. This is the same game I've been playing my whole entire life.’”
The award is voted on by Yankees beat writers. It was established in honor of James P. Dawson (1896-1953), who began a 45-year career with The New York Times as a copy boy in 1908. Eight years later, he became boxing editor and covered boxing and baseball until his death during Spring Training in 1953.
Two past recipients, Tony Kubek (1957) and Tom Tresh (1962), went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. The Dawson Award first was presented to Norm Siebern by manager Casey Stengel in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the conclusion of Spring Training in 1956.
Boone announced on Tuesday that Schmidt will begin the season at the club’s alternate training facility in Moosic, Pa., where he will continue facing hitters and wait for an opportunity to make his Major League debut.
“There's nothing better than wearing the ‘NY’ across your chest, having that hat on or the pinstripes,” Schmidt said. “Being able to be around these guys, it's very motivating for me. Hopefully it's just the beginning for me, and I can go out here and have a good year and be able to make my debut. The big thing is to get a lot of wins, be able to compete and win a World Series.”