Name: Taylor Clarke
DOB: 5/14/1993 (Age 25)
Acquired: 3rd Round, 2015 MLB Draft
Most Notable Tool: Command
Season Stats: 27 starts, 13-8, 4.03 ERA, 152 IP, 125/44 K/BB, 12 HR, 1.27 WHIP, 39.3% GB rate for AAA Reno
2018 Season Summary: After reaching AAA and struggling a bit in 2017, Clarke spent the whole year in Reno and improved. His walk and HR/FB rates dropped to 6.9% and 7.3%, showing a strong improvement in command. Clarke’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but he was a steady and reliable pitcher for Reno all year long.
Tools: Fastball 50/55, Curveball 50/50, Cutter 45/50, Change-Up 50/50, Command 55/55
Clarke’s stuff does not stand out, but he maximizes what he has well. He attacks hitters with his low 90s 4-seamer at the top of the strike zone, which is why he gives up more fly balls than ground balls. It works for him as evidenced by the high infield fly ball rate (25% or better at every stop). Clarke lacks a plus pitch in his repertoire, but compensates by being able to command 4 average pitches and sequencing them to keep hitters off balance.
Upside: Clarke will have to continue to keep hitters off balance to overcome his lack of a true put-away pitch, something he has learned in AAA last year. Best case scenario he becomes a #4 or 5 starter in the rotation that can eat up innings and put up solid, but not spectacular numbers overall. Despite previously undergoing Tommy John surgery in college, Clarke has proven to be durable in his 4 seasons in the Diamondbacks farm system as he’s never missed a start to date.
Risk: The only risk is Clarke lacks the stuff to stick in the rotation and would have to move to the bullpen. The lack of a plus pitch is concerning a bit, but again makes up for it with an advanced understanding of how to attack hitters. Even if he fails to stick in the rotation, I still think he’d be a reliable contributor out of the bullpen as such a move would accentuate his strengths.
Likely 2019 Assignment: Clarke has nothing left to prove at the minor league level after a successful 2018 season in Reno. However, I still think he starts the year in AAA due with the MLB rotation set and would be the first man up on the pecking order. Personally I would like to see him get a long reliever role with the team so he can face MLB hitters, even if that means he throws a lot less innings. The team does have two highly regarded pitching prospects at the top of the system, so it won’t hurt the team’s depth too much to give Clarke an MLB trial. If he’s not ready, send him back to Reno and stretch him out to be a starter.
ETA: 2019 Season