South Carolina pitcher Clarke Schmidt was selected in the first round of Monday’s MLB draft, less than two months after suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament to his right elbow that required Tommy John surgery.
The junior was picked No. 16 overall by the New York Yankees and will likely forego his senior season and begin his pro career. The slot value for the pick is $3,458,600.
Schmidt is the highest draft pick for USC since Justin Smoak was selected 11th overall by the Texas Rangers in the 2008 MLB draft.
“I’m happy for him and his family,” Carolina pitching coach and interim head coach Jerry Meyers said. “It couldn’t happen to a guy that earned it anymore than he did with what he does every day on the field, in the classroom, in the weight room, all of that.”
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Schmidt finished the 2017 season 4-2 with a 1.34 ERA in nine starts, leading the SEC in ERA and ranking second in college baseball before being injured.
He was a preseason All-American prior to this season and was recognized as having the “best control” of all pitchers in the SEC by Baseball America.
“His stuff got better every year. He did something to improve himself every go-around. He refined what he did well and was extremely competitive,” Meyers said. “He wasn’t just competitive on the days he was competing. He was being very competitive all the other days with preparation and the offseason and what he did and invested to put himself where he needed to be each spring.”
As a sophomore Schmidt went 9-5 with a 3.40 ERA in 18 appearances with 17 starts and was named a third-team All-American.
His work ethic is what helped allow him to go from 2-2 with a 4.81 ERA as a freshman to one of the best pitchers in the country as a junior, according to Meyers.
“He’s obviously got very good stuff and as he matured he continued to utilize that stuff,” Meyers said. “He was always trying to find something to make him just a little bit better. He’s just very driven all the time.”
In addition to Schmidt, the Yankees have three other USC pitchers in their system with Jordan Montgomery in the MLB starting rotation, Tyler Webb in Triple-A and Taylor Widener in Single-A Advanced.
“That is unique. It’s pretty neat that all of those guys are with that organization and that organization thinks highly of our guys,” Meyers said. “As one guy gets in the organization and does well that maybe helps the next batch of guys.”