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No. 2 – Jeff Clement, C

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on March 24, 2007

When the Mariners took the, umm, telephone, and made the third overall selection in the 2005 First Year Players Draft, there was very little doubt about which few talents they were strongly considering. The draft’s two best talents – Alex Gordon and Justin Upton – were already gone, and the Mariners needed to nail the selection while adding depth to their farm system and a can’t miss bat to their lineup.

With rumors of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and OF Cameron Maybin, the Mariners believed their “need” player matched their “best available” player, and selected Jeff Clement, an offensive catcher from the University of Southern California.

Since then, Maybin has become among the top 10 prospects in baseball, Tulowitzki has earned a starting role in the big leagues, and several others that were taken after Clement have seen much brighter days, including Milwaukee’s slugger Ryan Braun (No. 5), Boston outfielder Jacob Ellsbury (No. 23), Twins righty Matt Garza (No. 25), Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey (No. 9) and Nationals’ 3B Ryan Zimmerman (No. 4).

But there’s more than hope for Clement, who plays a position that is known to take longer for development, and several explanations for not “lighting up” the box scores since draft day.

He’s been mishandled, injured and forced to share time when he deserves better. If the club allows him get back on the right path to the bigs, that’s exactly where he’ll be in no time at all.

Strengths: Clement is a left-handed bat with plus power potential and solid plate skills, including a much better batting eye than he displayed post-knee surgery a year ago. With quick wrists propelling a short, line-drive swing, the offense-first catcher has all the tools to bat in the middle of a big-league lineup for several years.

He’s capable of going the other way, and with power, and while he runs like a catcher, he’s also got solid base-running instincts and his work ethic will not be the reason he fails at anything.

Clement possesses good makeup and has the desire to improve enough defensively to succeed Kenji Johjima as the Seattle Mariners full-time backstop.

Weaknesses: Clement lacks athleticism which may catch up with him in his endeavor to prove he can stick behind the plate. He has adequate strength and hands and should eventually develop solid throwing technique but the questions that remain include his ability to move laterally to block pitches.

AGE HEIGHT WEIGHT BATS THROWS ACQUIRED
23 6-1 215 Left Right Draft, 2005 – 1st round
YEAR TEAM LEVEL G 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS*
2006 San Antonio AA 15 6 1 2 7 8 .288 .386 .428 .911 .942
2006 Tacoma AAA 67 10 0 4 16 53 .257 .321 .347 .668 .703

Tools –

Hitting for Average (on-base skills): Clement occasionally displays the inability to cover the outer half of the plate but his overall approach and aptitude to take pitches to the opposite field is enough evidence that he’ll fill that gap with more experience versus better pitching.
Clement is patient but still has room to grow in that area while he polishes off his strike zone judgment and sharpens his pitch recognition, which is already solid. He’ll draw an adequate number of walks and should ultimately limit the strikeouts to satisfactory levels – both very positive signs for his future with the bat.

If he’s able to maximize his development, there’s no reason Clement can’t hit in the .270s with solid on-base percentages in the .340-.360 range.
Grade: 50/55

Hitting for Power: Clement is the type of power bat that teams covet because he doesn’t have to swing out of his shoes to produce the bat speed necessary to send pitches sailing 350-400 feet.

Instead, he relies on balance and timing, centered around a classic hip-turn that pulls his bat through the zone with plus bat speed. Clement is a classic repetition hitter that is likely to improve with every plate appearance, and though his future behind the plate is somewhat in question, he’s still a good bet to turn into a well above-average performer standing next to it.
Grade: 55/65

Glove: Clement isn’t a bad defensive catcher, his shortcomings are mostly due to lack of proper instruction and, here’s that word again, repetition. Injury pretty much robbed him of a full year of development, but he’s made strides since the end of last season that have the Mariners excited about what lies ahead.

Clement’s hands are “light years better,” as one member of the player development department said, than they were at the start of last season and his understanding of the position has improved significantly. When knowing what to do is half the battle, it’s an enormous step when those instructing begin to let the student teach himself, and that’s starting to happen with Clement.

He’s springing up out of his crouch better than ever, thanks to a healthy knee and enhanced catch-and-throw mechanics.

While the coaches are seeing the improvements, pitchers are starting to notice, too, and that may be more important than anything. One right-hander opined that he’s twice the catcher he was last year.

“I had no idea it was Clement back there,” he said. “I remember last year he seemed uncomfortable in his squat, which made me a little uncomfortable throwing to him. I guess since I didn’t know him at all, I wasn’t too confident with him back there.

“Man, I thought it was (Rob) Johnson or (Adam) Moore, or maybe one of the new guys. He seemed much more confident and active.”

While a Gold Glove is not likely in Clement’s future, it appears that his chances to catch, at least some, in the big leagues improve with every day of experience.
Grade: 45/50

Arm: With adequate arm strength, Clement’s throwing technique, like everything else in his game, just needs time. Like pitchers, catchers need to repeat their throwing motion to develop consistent, accurate throws and eliminate any delay-forcing hitches in their mechanics.

If Clement is to become an everyday catcher, he’ll certainly need to vastly improve his throwing, but it, too, has gotten better over the past eight months, even without much playing time.
Grade: 45/50

Future: While projecting Clement as an all-star catcher is probably going too far, he’s got the offensive skills to do just that. If the M’s are patient enough with his catching, and can avoid rushing his bat, the USC product remains a pretty good prospect that could provide the big club with a number of prolific seasons.

The club probably stunted his development by rushing him to Triple-A Tacoma last summer, and it appears they are backing off that approach somewhat this season.

At last check, the M’s are considering sending Clement to Double-A West Tennessee where he can play everyday in a contented environment. Splitting time with Rob Johnson, or anyone else for that matter, isn’t conducive to either player’s development, particularly Clement’s, who needs the time defensively.

“It’s irresponsible to do what they (Mariners) did last year,” said a rival front office member. “They rushed their shortstop (Asdrubal Cabrera) before trading him, they rushed both catchers (Johnson, Clement) and they pushed Tui (Matt Tuiassosopo) far too qucikly. They should know better, and I bet they do.

“It really seems like they promoted those kids to make something that wasn’t there naturally. You can’t create value in your prospects that way, it’s going to catch up to them at some point, and they went o-fer with all of them. It’s not only counterproductive, it’s inexcusable and probably cost themselves and their players career time, or possible a career at all.

“Clement probably was effected the most, since he had the most to lose. I’m telling you, if he’s handled properly, he’s still a big-time prospect and I’m really excited for his future.”

OFP: 62

MLB ETA: 2007 (September)

MLB CLONE:

Ceiling: Jorge Posada
Median: Robert Fick
Cellar:
Eric Munson

PI Projection: .283/.344/.459, 48 BB, 78 K

Churchill on Clement: I really like Clement, and I can’t really point to one thing that I like most about his game. Of course, his ceiling defensively is in the average range, and there is still a decent chance he never catches a game in the majors, but you have to like a guy who just goes to work every day, no complaints, no whining, no excuses, no days off, and absolutely no artificial fanfare.

Sounds like a catcher to me.

While just about everything you hear about Clement is that he may not catch, or won’t catch, or can’t catch, some are also doubting his bat, which to me is a little odd, especially those who loved his bat a year ago and have done a 180.

What’s changed, I ask. He was raking in Double-A, just as most expected he would, and was rushed to Tacoma where he struggled to shake off the rust and never found any consistency, neither physically with the knee and elbow nor with on-field performance.

If anything is excusable, it’s being rushed back from injury and thrust into situations where he had little chance to succeed, and failing.

It’s not an excuse, it’s just very excusable. Clement can hit, and didn’t forget how while rehabbing from knee surgery.

Besides, the biggest problems at the plate in Tacoma were about making contact and squaring up the fastball and getting some pop behind it.

He’ll hit, and that’s the key to his status as a major asset in the farm system.

If he catches, which will necessitate the M’s being patient enough for him to develop, he’s damned near a bluechipper.

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63 Responses to “No. 2 – Jeff Clement, C”

  1. marinerseric said

    Nice article, i wish i could write like you, and if i could i would have a job haha.

  2. marinerseric said

    So are they going to resign Johjima in 2 years as a backup or will they just go with Clement?

  3. depends. Has Clement developed enough to catch? What’s Johjima’s condition physically at the age of 33?

  4. marinermutt said

    Jason, do you think Rivera and Johnson will share time in Tacoma if Clement goes to AA. I guess I would like to see Burke get a chance as backup catcher. He seems to have done pretty well this spring.

  5. It’s not out of the question that Clement goes to AAA and Johnson to AA. And if they go with Burke, i’ll be shocked.

  6. Lance said

    JAC, you’ve got Pasada as the Clement ceiling. However, wouldn’t Jason Varitek be a better one? A guy with a nice power bat but who had to work hard to be a catcher in the big leagues. Seems the same things they say about Clement now they said when JV was in the organization. And, while they say Varitek is the real leader and glue of his team, it seems that Clement has the same qualities that would make him the same thing in Seattle. Not an All-Star, just a guy that can lead you to a championship. That said, why’d you choose Pasada?

  7. Greg08 said

    Robert Fick seems like an extremely low median..

  8. Not when the chances that Clement doesn’t catch are higher than we’d like to admit. Clement should probably be a little better offensively, but he could also have issues switching positions and staying healthy.

    Re: Lance

    It’s close, Lance, because both make sense. But Varitek is such a vocal leader and a much more physical catcher than either Posada or Clement. Clement is a pretty quiet guy who’ll lead more like Wilson does, rather than Varitek.

    Sounds like Posada to me.

    Offensively, all three have similar skills.

  9. Edgar said

    If he’s forced to switch positions, can he hit enough to be much more than an average player? Would he switch to 1B or OF? If he does happen to switch positions, how does our depth behind him look? Do you think Rivera or Johnson can develop to much?

    After saying all of that, I’d be very surprised to see him switch positions. It also makes me a little sad to hear you say you’d be so surprised to see Burke make the team. I was kinda rooting for him to make it.

  10. re: Clement

    I think if his bat is that good, his defense will be just enough to pass him off as a catcher, at least. So if he has to switch spots, it’ll be because he’s neither adequate enough defensively nor is he such a plus bat that they would suffer defensively.

    He should be a better than average hitter overall, yes. But he’s very limited position wise.

  11. Willmore said

    Watching the game and … one question. Does Mike Hargrove think that if he gets a Bavasi goatee he has a better chance of keeping his job? Seriously, what are they, the Doublemint Twins?

  12. Bavasi has had it for along time. Grover is just a dunce.

  13. nighthawk180 said

    I heard on the first broadcast they did earlier in spring that his wife told him to grow one out because he had one when he was coaching the indians.

  14. Ralph said

    That’s just wonderful. Next he will be going to astrologers, consulting tarot card readers, or buying carbon credits. Maybe his wife can dig up a pen with some kind of significance, and he can write his resignation letter with it.

  15. Lance said

    JAC, what are you hearing regarding Clement’s abilities in calling a game and his handling of pitchers, other than what you eluded to in your opening remarks?

  16. cujo said

    I disagree Bavasi is a dunce also!

  17. JasonAChurchill said

    I disagree, I just think Bavasi is weak.

  18. Willmore said

    This guy for GM …

  19. Willmore said

    Jason, why can’t we embed images?

    This guy for GM … http://www.schwarzenegger.it/gallery/musclegallery1/m88.jpg

  20. JasonAChurchill said

    wordpress doesn’t support images in the comments.

    That’ll change here at PI, and very soon. We’re moving, and it won’t be but a few weeks, probably, maybe sooner.

  21. Jesse said

    Though i personally like Jeff Clement (he is a very soft spoken, humble, approachable kid), and be excited about his major league potential, i can’t help but pine after Cameron Maybin, and Ryan Braun.

  22. Adam B. said

    *Sigh*
    Add Brandon Morrow to the heap of rushed talent. =L
    And I don’t know if your scout buddy was correct in saying that the M’s rush mentatility didn’t work for everyone; Just look at the success story that is Rene Rivera. ^_^

  23. Willmore said

    Maybin is overrated and Bruan I like, but Clement is at a premium position which is a big difference in value. Clement was the better selection, and still is.

  24. I’m under the impression that Maybin is a CF, isn’t that a premium position?

  25. Lance said

    Your comment on Bavasi at #17 is interesting, Jason. I think it would be worth a column in the near future to elaborate if you have a mind to.

  26. JasonAChurchill said

    I’d rather have Maybin, too, but Clement wasn’t the wrong pick by any means.

  27. Willmore said

    Yes, CF is a premium position, but not as valued as catcher in terms of offensive output. The difference between an average catcher and what Clement can provide and the average centerfielder and what Maybin can provide is different. While Maybin has the higher ceiling and has plus speed, Clement is the better possible major-leager because he is a bigger offensive improvement over a replacement level player.

    Also, I feel that Maybin’s stats last year were a bit inflated and he will be unlikely to repeat them this year. In the end, I would guess that he projects to a .270/.340/.450 guy in the majors with 15-20 homers and 25-40 steals, depending on how he develops in baserunning skills.

  28. cujo said

    Hickeys article on how the mariners planned on getting hot at the end of spring had me laughing so hard i allmost fell down.If you can plan when you get hot everyone i think would do that.Unless the baldman has a tarrot card reader on payrole i think this article is a frikin joke!

  29. JasonAChurchill said

    Of course it is, cujo, it’s a beat writer.

  30. cujo said

    There are beat writers in other citys who dont allways write hese fluff articles….Why do we have to hear this frikin garbage do they really think us mariner fans are stupid are what?

  31. JasonAChurchill said

    Thats because they dont have editors who have to cater to the fans that are here. Or they dont have editors that are smart enough to realize that the better the media, the better than fans.

  32. MC said

    You do have Geoff Baker, Larry Stone and Art Thiel who do publish good material

  33. Baker is new and seems different, yes, and the other two aren’t beat writers.

  34. JI said

    Clement has the worst Median comp of any of the top ten (even though Fick was an all-star).

  35. JasonAChurchill said

    maybe i was a little light on the median for Clement, but you have to remember one thing.

    the median isn’t the most likely end-result, necessarily, and he’s a much safer bet than mist of the top 10.

    One scout suggested to me that Dimitri Young or Geoff Jenkins was a better median comp

  36. cujo said

    If a GM surrounds himself with the guys Bavasi brought in with him i dont need to name them you know who they are then yes i think he is a dunce!He has made alot of very very bad decisions on players and personel he may be a decenet guy but as a GM he is has been and allways will fall in the dunce category!

  37. cujo said

    If a GM surrounds himself with the guys Bavasi brought in with him i dont need to name them you know who they are then yes i think he is a dunce!He has made alot of very very bad decisions on players and personel he may be a decenet guy but as a GM he is has been and allways will fall in the dunce category!Those who dont learn from there past mistakes and continue to make the same ones over and over equals dunce!

  38. Van said

    Interesting article on Johjima in today’s (3/27) Seattle Times. Have to dig deeper sometimes. It look like the evaluation Jason’s experienced scout provided on Joh was much too shallow. Look for much bigger things this year.

  39. The two scouts who I spoke to about Johjima weren’t predicting future failure, and neither was I. They were assessing what he was in the immediate and I made it very very clear that he can get better… but who knows how much better.

    And don’t believe everything you read, specifically when they are written by beat guys and columnists trying to sell papers.

    Remember, I’m not selling anything here.

  40. Willmore said

    Except donations … open you hearts people, feed the starving bloggers !

    Seriously, great job on the site, Jason, we hope for bigger and better things to come.

  41. Todd said

    Awesome write-up. Sounds like Clement might blossom into a decent catcher for the M’s.

    Side-note: HoRam looked all kinds of awful today. The rotation, outside of Felix, is really looking ugly. Any chance of another swap to possibly remedy it?

  42. marinerswinws said

    The rotation is fine excpet for Weaver.

  43. Salty Dog said

    We need to see how the rotation does in Safeco before drawing any conclusions.

  44. LantermanC said

    Hey Jason, I’m loving this prospect rankings thing, and the in-depth analysis is great. Can’t wait to see who number 1 is (sarcasm). But seriously, can’t wait for Adam Jones’s profile, because I don’t think he’s going to be that great, but you and several other M’s bloggers thing he’s going to be dynamite, so it’ll be interesting to see why. How does he compare to Chris Young on Arizona, and why do both of them get compared to Mike Cameron? Is it because they’re both athletic, black, centerfielders (though I guess Torii Hunter could be here too)? Or moreso because they both have the potential to take up a lot of space in CF, and are 25/25 likely?
    Also, you sort of mentioned this with Clement, but I like when you list other prospects in the same draft and how they’re doing better or worse. Starting over again, how would Clement rank against the other prospects? 10th?
    Lastly, I always thought that if Clement was such a great power hitter, how about next year we have Johjima catch 110 games and DH 50, and have Clement catch 50 games and DH 110, so when Clement is 27 or so, he can resume full-time catching duties and his knees won’t be so bad. Or does he need that much time of actual in-game catching to improve his defense?

  45. Adam said

    Re: Ramirez and our rotation after Felix:

    Am I alone in thinking a horrible start is the best thing for this team/franchise? If we have a terrible April, and sit 8-10 games out, there is a good chance:

    1. Hargrove is canned

    2. Morrow is sent back down to the minors

    3. Bavasi starts looking at trade partners for Ichiro.

    Short-term pain for long-term gain?

  46. Chris said

    Any thoughts on the wisdom in using the #3 pick of the draft on a “need” player vs. a “best available” player?

  47. MtGrizzly said

    What will Rivera being sent to AAA do to the minor league catching situation? Clement or Johnson to AA?

  48. Re: Chris

    Clement was also a safer bet to at least hit in the majors than Maybin and others.

    Re: catching

    Maybe BOTH, Grizzly.

  49. Willmore said

    The way I see it happening is Rob Johnson getting the backup job, Clement at AA and Rivera at AAA. Clement, in the eyes of the organization at least, has not performed offensively at AAA, and he can learn the defense at any level, but having a replacement catcher within driving distance can make a difference during the season. I don’t see Burke making the club just because he is a non-roster guy, and I don’t see the M’s jettisoning any of the 40-man guys for a backup catcher who is marginally better than what we have right now.

  50. Lance said

    Rivera is going to AA, not AAA.

  51. Rivera is going to AA, not AAA.

    Why stop there? I mean, he could probably still keep his apartment in Seattle and commute up to Everett.

  52. But then he’d have nothing to do between now and June 21.

  53. Lance said

    Rivera is still a good catching prospect. He’s a good defensive catcher and can still improve. And, in AA, he can continue to work at hitting. He’s only 23. He may never be back with the Mariners, but he will be back in the majorn leagues.

    And, I still wouldn’t put too much value on any spring training performance, including Weaver’s. For one thing, the Cactus League heat wrecks havoc on breaking pitches. Yesterday Kevin Millwood gave up ten runs in less than five innings. Does that mean Texas should be worried about him? I don’t think so. I do think they’ve got plenty of things to worry about. But he isn’t one of them.

  54. Lance said

    I should say the Cactus League air, not heat.

  55. he doesnt get a lot of relief from that in Arlington, though.

  56. But then he’d have nothing to do between now and June 21.

    And your point is…

    😉

  57. My point is, he’d have nothing to do.

  58. JI said

    If Clement plays in Seattle this year, is it as the DH?

    Considering Vidro’s contract, I don’t know if there’s any level of suckyness he can reach that will get him get cut.

  59. Ron Hagerty said

    People need to stop bagging on Vidro… This guy is probably gonna have a pretty solid season if he remains healthy…

    Weaver on the other hand is terrible and has nearly no hope of being a productive player this yr or ever..

  60. I don’t think Vidro will suck… he just probably won’t provide the kind of production the club really needed from his spot.

    He’s a professional hitter. I kinda like him.

    His contract sucks, the trade sucked… but Vidro isn’t all that terrible, it seems.

  61. misterjonez said

    Vidro is probably the least likely player to make a fool of himself at the plate. Ichiro seemingly always looks out of control, which is one of the most beautiful things about watching him play every day. Ibanez just never seems to ‘control’ an AB, but he’s downright dangerous. Vidro’s not dangerous, or a pleasure to watch, but he’s going to give you a mini-Edgar type of approach and pretty much control the AB’s he gets.

  62. Cody Mize said

    I heard Moore lost the everyday job in West Tennessee when Rivera was let go from the Big League club? How long are they going to give him to produce before Moore makes the move?

  63. That is true, Cody… I was actually surprised Rivera wasn’t DFA’d after they deemed Burke the backup…

    I think Moore AND Oliveros can handle AA and since Moore may actually have a future, it makes more sense to leave him there… Rivera doesn’t hold a lot of value right now to any club in the system.

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