15 February 2006

Pending Pinstripes Yankee Prospect of the Week: Tyler Clippard

Tyler L. Clippard, RHP
Tyler Clippard
Born: February 14, 1985 in Lexington, Kentucky
Height: 6-3 Weight: 170
Bats/Throws: Right
High School: J.W. Mitchell HS, Trinity, Fla.
Drafted by Yankees in 9th round (274th overall) of 2003 June amateur draft

It's a two-for-the-price-of-one week here at Pending Pinstripes, as you get an additional prospect profile based almost entirely on the fact that this one just had a birthday on Tuesday. That's right, for the first time in his life, Yankees prospect Tyler Clippard could celebrate both his birthday and Valentines Day with alcohol and not get arrested for it.

But can he pitch?

In a word? You bet your bippy!

Tyler Clippard was drafted by the Yankees out of high school in 2003, and though I’m not necessarily a fan of drafting high school pitchers in the first round, a 9th round pick seems like a worthwhile risk, and Clippard has not disappointed. His lanky frame is not atypical of such a young player, and it’s only a matter of time before he fills out a little more. The above height comes from The Baseball Cube. Baseball America’s scouting report has him even taller, at 6′4, but still only 170 lbs. (Side note to Tyler: Don’t worry. When I was your age, I was also 6′4", 170 lbs. After I turned 21 my metabolism changed and I started gaining weight. I’m up to about 250 lbs now, but my “fast”ball still wouldn’t be pulled over for speeding on the Interstate. If you’re lucky you’ll at least get to keep most of your hair.)

Baseball America’s scouting report also called Clippard’s 2005 “a breakthrough season” but frankly, I don’t see that. His numbers for the last three years are shown below (though he did pitch 6 innings in Low-A Charleston, striking out 10, before his promotion to High-A Tampa in 2005, and he pitched one inning at AAA Columbus as well).

Year Team Age Lev W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO
2003 GCL Yankees 18 Rk 3 3 2.89 11 5 43.7 33 16 14 3 5 56
2004 Battle Creek 19 A 10 10 3.44 26 25 149.0 153 71 57 12 32 145
2005 Tampa 20 A 10 9 3.18 26 25 147.3 118 56 52 12 34 169

To me, his 2005 numbers look almost exactly like his 2004 numbers and for that matter, no so very different from his 2003 numbers in the Gulf Coast League. His games pitched, innings pitched, walks, homers allowed, earned runs and strikeouts are all very similar, if not identical, and the rates of walks, homers and strikeouts are quite close to those 2003 GCL numbers, though they were compiled in only 44 innings. The only real differences from 2004 are the number of hits he gave up and the number of unearned runs allowed, both of which dropped off considerably. Whether either of those trends is sustainable remains to be seen, but at this point Clippard is showing the Yankees exactly what they want to see: A high school pitcher dominating at the low levels of the minors and moving up the ladder, one level per year.

What’s he got going for him?

According to BA, Clippard worked with Nardi Contreras this year to improve the consistency of his mechanics, giving him a more repeatable delivery and thereby improving all of his pitches. Speaking of which, he throws four of them for strikes, an 89-92 mph fastball that occasionaly flirts with 94 mph, a “plus” curve, a slider and a change-up. And of course, he throws them all for strikes pretty consistently, as his walk rates (roungly 2 per nine innings) will attest. He also strikes out about a batter per inning, and rarely surrenders a home run, which are both excellent indicators of long-term success.

What’s he got going against him?

Clippard is making progress, yes, but is still very young, just having turned 21 yesterday, as I mentioned. You could probably pave I-95 from Florida to New York with the resumes of pitchers who’ve had this kind of success in Single-A ball and never saw the Big Leagues, so don’t mortgage your house to place a big bet on Clippard starting the 2008 season in the Yankees rotation. He’s got talent, yes, but AA and AAA ball are both big hurdles to overcome, even for someone who looks this good right now.

In addition, as I mentioned, Clippard is so skinny that when he pitches from the wind-up he becomes nearly invisible to the people at home plate. He’s likely to gain some weight over the next couple of years (hopefully not 80 lbs, like me) and that will affect his delivery, so we’ll have to check back in and see if he learns to use that weight gain well. If he doesn’t gain weight, it’s hard to imagine someone this thin NOT breaking down with an arm injury or something of that nature. There just isn’t enough of him to withstand the kind of abuse to which a major league pitcher’s body is subjected.

Also an issue if he doesn’t gain some poundage, with those ears, is that a stiff breeze might come through the infield and woosh!, it’s time for a call to the bullpen…

Prognosis for 2006:

Clippard will start the 2006 season at AA Trenton, where I hope to get to see him pitch at least once. He’ll be one of the youngest players on is team, and will have his work cut out for him, both in retiring Eastern League batters and in drawing the organization’s attention away from #1 prospect Phillip Hughes, who could move up to New Jersey from Tampa by mid-season if he’s successful down there.

Personally, I hope to get to see Tyler pitch in Trenton early in the season, as I’m not sure he’ll still be with the Thunder come July or August. Success in Trenton will get him a call up to Columbus, where we’ll get to see (wait for it…)

Clippard the Clipper!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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