Part 5 in a series analyzing the Yankees’ top prospects
Any conversation about Yankees pitching prospects these days begins with Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt. Or Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia. You pick the order.
Garcia, 20, pitched for Single-A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year and was mentioned as a possible September call-up in a relief role but wasn’t summoned. Schmidt, 24, also worked at three levels, reaching Trenton where he made three starts.
However, when it comes to this season — if there is one — right-hander Mike King could land a spot on the expanded roster ahead of both Garcia and Schmidt.
After being limited to 11 minor league games and one big league outing last season due to a right elbow problem that surfaced early in spring training, King was healthy in spring training this year when he appeared in four games and worked 9 ¹/₃ innings.
Acquired from the Marlins with international slot money on Nov. 20, 2017 for left-hander Caleb Smith and infielder Garrett Cooper, King built upon a strong 2017 season for Single-A Greensboro by going a combined 11-5 with a 1.79 ERA for Tampa, Trenton and SWB in 2018. In 161 ¹/₃ innings, King allowed 118 hits, struck out 152 and walked 29. In six starts for SWB, King went 4-0 with a 1.15 ERA.
The body of work earned King a big-league invite to spring training in 2019, but that elbow injury didn’t allow him to pitch during the exhibition season. He didn’t debut until July 3 in the Gulf Coast League. He moved to Staten Island (short season-A) and pitched for Trenton and SWB before being elevated to the big leagues in September to take the suspended Domingo German’s roster spot.
King’s major league debut on Sept. 27 against the Rangers consisted of two innings in which he gave up two hits and an unearned run.
In an age dominated by velocity King, 25, uses a 91-mph fastball, slider and changeup effectively.
“He commands both sides of the plate. He isn’t concerned about strikeouts, but he gets them,’’ a scout said of King, who went 3-1 with a 4.18 ERA in four Triple-A starts last season. “He uses his sinker to get in on the hands of right-handed and left-handed hitters. He pitches to his strengths.’’
While the 6-foot-3, 210-pound King has been a starter in the minors the past three years, the former Boston College hurler could help in the bullpen in a 2020 season that would be like no other.
Garcia, who is on the 40-man roster, and Schmidt, who isn’t, would also be in the hunt for a roster spot. Put Ben Heller (40-man) in the mix, too.
At the time of the deal with the Marlins, the Yankees were looking for international slot money as they prepared to go after two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, who eventually signed with the Angels.
Though King has appeared in one big-league game, the Marlins did very well getting Smith, a 14th-round pick of the Yankees in 2013. He went 10-11 with a 4.52 ERA in 28 starts in 2019 for the rebuilding club. Smith pitched in nine games (two starts) for the 2017 Yankees, going 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA.