2019 Stats: 5-5, 5.31 ERA, 23 G, 84.2IP, 68 SO, 1.370 WHIP, ERA+ 84 (0.0 bWAR)
2019 Salary: Minimum
2020 Status: Pre-arbitration
Taylor Clarke was selected fist in the third round (76 overall) of the 2015 draft. The 2015 draft is the draft where the Diamondbacks selected first overall and famously took Dansby Swanson, only to trade him away in one of the worst deals in franchise history. While Swanson debuted in 2016, it was for the Atlanta Braves. It was not until the 2019 season until Clarke, and shortly thereafter, Alex Young, made their MLB debuts. Assigned to A- ball in Hillsboro coming out of college, Clarke steadily worked his way through the organization, working in multiple levels each season until he reached Reno late in 2017. He then spent the entirety of 2018 in the hitter-friendly PCL where he managed to put together a respectable season as a starter for the Aces - enough of a strong showing that many expected Clarke to get a cup of coffee in September. That, however, wound up not happening. Clarke then returned to Reno to open the 2019 season. For Clarke, that started the when-not-if clock on him making his MLB debut. As it turns out, the wait was a relatively short one.
Arizona’s early season pitching woes resulted in the Diamondbacks recalling Clarke from the Aces on April 20th. Though he spent his time in the minors developing as a starter, he was brought in to make his MLB debut as a relief pitcher on April 21st. Clarke’s debut could hardly have gone better. Clarke entered the game against the Cubs with the Diamondbacks leading 6-0 after six innings of play. With no stress, Clarke cruised through the final three innings of work, notching himself a three-inning save in his first taste of Major League experience. He struck out two batters and allowed a single to Jason Heyward, but he did not walk anyone. Yes, he uncorked a wild pitch and also managed to plunk Anthony Rizzo, but despite these signs of wildness, he showed a good command of the strikezone and pitched without fear.
This great debut earned Clarke all of a few hours of celebration before he was on a plane headed back to Reno as part of Arizona’s shuffling of bullpen arms.
A couple weeks later, Clarke was once again recalled from Reno, this time to start on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays. Following up on his strong debut, Clarke pitched six strong innings, allowing only two runs. After this second fine performance, he once again boarded a plane and headed back to Reno. Clarke was again recalled a bit over two weeks later. This time though, it was to actually join the rotation. Clarke made a string of 13 starts as a member of the rotation. The starts were split in half between decent outings, a few of which were strong showings, and full-on dumpster fires. This inconsistency resulted in Clarke pitching himself out of the rotation by mid-August. However, even though he was no longer a part of the rotation, he did not return to Reno. Instead, he finished out the season as a long-reliever, pitching in eight more contests, all of them multi-inning affairs, the last of which he worked as an opener.
While Clarke’s time as a starter in 2019 was a mixed bag, his time as a reliever provided the team with some reason to be hopeful about his future. Working as a reliever, Clarke posted the following line:
8 G, 20.1 IP, 7.5 SO9, 0.934 WHIP
Though this is not a large sample size, it amounts to about a third of a typical reliever’s season.
Taylor Clarke exceeded his rookie limit in 2019. He will not be eligible for arbitration until 2022. He also has minor league options remaining. WIth MLB rosters expanding to 26 players beginning in 2020, Clarke seems almost a lock to be a member of the 2020 bullpen. Given Mike Hazen’s track-record of signing some veterans with high potential upside but without minor league options, it is possible that Clarke could once again find himself opening the season in Reno. However, his ability to give multiple innings, the fact that he has minor league options, and his demonstrated success out of the bullpen already, make him a front-runner for a spot as one of the team’s middle-relievers for the season.