Jeff Clement, A Conversation

Dave · June 29, 2007 at 9:45 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Originally, I was planning on bringing this up in the Future Forty update on Monday, but the more I thought about it, the more I think it deserves its own post. Jeff Clement, the #3 pick in the 2005 draft, is absolutely killing the ball in Tacoma right now. After going deep yesterday, his June line stands at .374/.446/.744, and the horrible April he had looks like a distant memory.

However, if you remember back to the last Future Forty update, I talked about how the scouting reports on him from the first two months of the season were horrendous. The main center of the discussion was about Clement’s batspeed, which most informed observers agreed was significantly slower than it was in college. There are no scenarios where a slow bat is a good thing, so I offered up this scouting information as a reason why I was worried about Clement, despite some positive statistical markers.

Well, obviously, Clement’s doing just fine right now. So, last week, I had another conversation with one of the scouts who saw Clement earlier in the year and told me about his slow-ish batspeed. Since he was now killing the ball, I went into the conversation with an attitude of “what did we miss, or what has changed?” Scout Friend’s answer was pretty surprising to me, and led me to think about the subject and do some more research the last few days.

Essentially, here’s what he said – Clement’s bat is still slow, and those same concerns about his abilities from April and May (“can’t get around on fastballs on the inner half, chases pitches up in the zone, and is only effective when he knows he’s getting a fastball from a guy who can’t get it up there faster than 92″) are still true. I was pretty surprised at this answer, honestly, and pressed him for how he explained Clement tearing apart the PCL the last month if he had a slow bat. His answer, somewhat paraphrased:

“He’s destroying soft-tossing left-handers who don’t have major league stuff. I don’t care if he can hit the ball over the wall against guys who won’t ever see the majors – I want to see him get around on a major league fastball. Look at his numbers – they’ll back me up on this.”

Now, to me, this sounded like a bit of a defend-my-previous-position-at-all-costs argument, but I have a lot of respect for this guy, and I know him well enough to feel that he wouldn’t take a stance on something that he doesn’t believe in. So, I took him up on his challenge, and tried to figure out if I could find some evidence to prove or disprove what he’s saying. Looking into Clement’s line, there’s one thing that just glares at you:

Vs LHP: .373/.462/.776, 25 for 67, 15 XBH
Vs RHP: .249/.332/.436, 45 for 181, 20 XBH

Jeff Clement is left-handed. That’s one of the most striking reverse platoon splits I have ever seen. Against right-handed pitchers, Clement has been a mediocre hitter. Against lefties, he’s been Babe Ruth. There have been huge amounts of research that show that the normal platoon advantage is about 9% when facing other-handed pitchers, and the amount of players who have true talent reverse platoon splits are extremely rare. In almost every case, left-handed hitters will hit righties better than southpaws.

Even though it’s a small sample size, the difference in performance between Clement vs LHP and RHP is still staggering. And you know what? It supports the scout’s claim. He really is feasting on left-handed pitchers. The entirity of his success this year can be credited to his ability to mash LHPs.

So, the conversation continued. I told Scout Friend that the raw numbers actually did support his claim, but that I still couldn’t believe that all of this success was coming off of guys throwing Triple-A fastballs. He says he’s convinced that Clement’s bat isn’t fast enough to get around on high velocity pitches, and every pitch he’s seen him drive this year has been below 90 MPH. I was still struggling with accepting this, so I decided to dive into the Rainiers box scores. Here’s a list of all the pitchers Jeff Clement has taken yard this year.

June 28th: Ryan Ketchner, LHP
June 22nd: Dan Meyer, LHP
June 13th: Tim Stauffer, RHP
June 9th: Bob Keppel, RHP, and Mike DeJean, RHP
June 5th: J.R. Mathes (twice), LHP
May 27th: Evan McLane, LHP
May 20th: Enrique Gonzalez, RHP
May 15th: Paul Mildren, LHP
May 10th: Miguel Ascenscio, RHP
May 6th: Joe Saunders, LHP
April 28th: Mark Alexander, RHP
April 7th: Shame Komine, RHP

He has seven home runs against righties and seven home runs against lefties. But, out of that entire list, there are three guys on there that regularly top 92+ with their fastballs: Bob Keppel, Miguel Ascenscio and Enrique Gonzalez. The lefties on the list? A veritable collection of junkballers and soft-tossers. Ryan Ketchner, Dan Meyer, J.R. Mathes, Evan McLane, Paul Mildren, and Joe Saunders – all guys who couldn’t break glass with their fastballs. Saunders is the only major league pitcher in the bunch, and he’s a guy who succeeds with command and changing speeds.

Looking at the data, Scout Friend was right – Clement has been destroying the ball off of lefties who don’t have major league fastballs.

Now, I’m not presenting this post as any kind of reason to jump off the Jeff Clement bandwagon. He was the #3 pick in the draft two years ago, so this isn’t some guy who scouts universally hated. He hit at USC, he hit in the Texas League, and now he’s hitting in the PCL. There’s too much history that says Jeff Clement can hit for me to buy the idea that he’s just a guy with marginal batspeed and his success won’t translate to the majors.

But I do find the entire conversation extremely interesting. I think it’s relevant information that Clement is loading up on Triple-A junkballers and struggling against pitchers with major league fastballs. I’m not sure what it means, but I don’t think it’s something we should ignore.

So, to be honest, I don’t know what to think about Jeff Clement. The numbers say I should be a fan – he’s a power and patience left-handed guy that looks like a perfect fit for Safeco Field, and after a long struggle, no one has been able to get him out for the last month and a half. But, traditional scouting can still see a lot of things that statistical analysis cannot, and in this case, there’s valid evidence of the scouting claim.

Is Jeff Clement going to hit in the majors? I don’t know. I think so, but I’ll be a lot more confident if he starts whacking the ball against some high velocity right-handers.

Comments

90 Responses to “Jeff Clement, A Conversation”

  1. Dave on June 29th, 2007 9:59 am

    I couldn’t figure out where to fit this in the post and have it not seem disjointed and out of place, so I’m sticking it here.

    Scout Friend also warned of reading too much into guys hitting well in Triple-A from June through August. His assertion is that the guys who began the season in Triple-A and had actual major league arms have already been promoted to the majors, and teams do not replenish their AAA rosters with major league arms from Double-A at the same rate.

    For instance, in April, Triple-A hitters had to deal with Philip Hughes, Homer Bailey, Yovanni Gallardo, and Tim Lincecum, all elite prospects who had upper tier stuff. They’re all in the majors now. They also had to deal with the decent stuff-good command types, such as Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Jason Hammel, and Andy Sonnanstine, all of whom dominated the minors before getting the call to the majors recently.

    Now, those guys are all gone, and almost none of the top Double-A arms have been bumped up. Andrew Miller went from Double-A to the majors. Matt Garza was just bumped up from Triple-A to the majors yesterday. There just aren’t many major league arms left in the PCL or the IL. It’s basically just a land of guys who get by with command and finesse.

    Scout Friend suggests buyer beware on guys who struggle early at Triple-A, then heat up as the good arms get moved out.

  2. bakomariner on June 29th, 2007 10:05 am

    dave, so i was excited to read the post (and it was excellent as usual) but now i’m bummed out…i was really hoping his recent numbers meant he was destined for big things…i hope he still is…one thing not mentioned is his defense…i know he has been criticized before for it, but how is he catching now? improvements? or if he can hit, will he be a DH or 1B?

  3. Tak on June 29th, 2007 10:08 am

    Have they still figured out the reason why his bat speed has dropped?

  4. Dave on June 29th, 2007 10:08 am

    There’s no reason to be bummed out – it’s a lot better news that he’s destroying Triple-A arms than if those same guys were getting him out. I’d rather have a guy be too good for the junkballers than not be good enough for them.

    Again, I’m not suggesting anyone take this and say “Clement is terrible.”

    As for his defense, it gets generally bad reviews, and most people project him as a 1B/DH. That’s almost certainly the case if he stays in Seattle, as he won’t be replacing Johjima anytime soon and the organization likes Rob Johnson a lot (though I’m not sure they should).

  5. david h on June 29th, 2007 10:11 am

    Dave, do you think Clement’s recent surge in the stat line, combined with still playing catcher, makes him a good sell-high trading chip if the M’s are still in the race in a couple weeks, or has the previous year and a half knocked his value down too low to get much in return right now?

  6. eponymous coward on June 29th, 2007 10:11 am

    In all fairness, Clement hasn’t SPENT much time against the likes of good, almost-ready for AAA guys under this analysis, since he showed up in Tacoma late last June.

  7. Evan on June 29th, 2007 10:14 am

    But, traditional scouting can still see a lot of things that statistical analysis cannot

    To be fair to statistical analysis, you just used it to verify what the scout said. All the scouting did was tell you where to look, but the information was there in the stats.

    I’m inclined to do this sort of analysis for all hot-hitting guys in AAA.

  8. awolfgang on June 29th, 2007 10:15 am

    So can we use him as a decoy to trick opposing teams to bring in a LOOGY and then Clement can do his thing, of course that will only work until this information gets out to other clubs, so quick remove this insider information.

    Also, I wonder if the M’s like you exposing company secrets which might make it harder to sell him in a trade to another team.

    I still love your insight so keep it up.

  9. Benno on June 29th, 2007 10:15 am

    Interesting update on Clement. And this is exactly why the debate on scouting vs statistics should be ignored. You need both to get a solid read on how a player is going to perform, and you have to be willing to change an evaluation if there is compelling evidence that there is something different. Hopefully, I will have time next week to see Clement, Wlad and (hopefullly not) Jones in Portland next week. It will be something I’ll be paying attention to.

  10. Dave on June 29th, 2007 10:17 am

    Dave, do you think Clement’s recent surge in the stat line, combined with still playing catcher, makes him a good sell-high trading chip if the M’s are still in the race in a couple weeks, or has the previous year and a half knocked his value down too low to get much in return right now?

    I’m sure Clement will be one of the first names asked about if the M’s get into buying mode. There are a lot of teams out there who need a catcher, and Clement offers a left-handed stick with power.

    That said, the M’s aren’t exactly coming out their ears with left-handed power hitters, and Safeco screams for left-handed power hitters, so I’m not sure the M’s should be giving Clement away.

  11. bakomariner on June 29th, 2007 10:17 am

    Re:4

    Guess why it bummed me out is that with all the catching problems we’ve had since dan retired (when will he get his due and put in the Ms hall, by the way?), and although i love the joh/jamie combo, i always hoped that jeff would be the catcher of the future and a superstar…based on his college success and high draft status…just a little let down with him in general…i was fired up when they drafted him…very excited…

  12. Manzanillos Cup on June 29th, 2007 10:17 am

    When you draft a guy with the third pick, wouldn’t you want to be sure that he could get around on a 90+ mph fastball?

    And if this is a situation of his bat speed decreasing, well… it seems like that’s just backwards. Is he out of shape? Injured?

  13. joser on June 29th, 2007 10:18 am

    buyer beware on guys who struggle early at Triple-A, then heat up as the good arms get moved out.

    Huh, that’s a really interesting point. I wonder if you could develop a “premium/discount” on a player’s offensive stats based on the pitchers he’s faced, and revise that as you get more data about those pitchers (sort of similar to what is done with the college football rankings).

  14. scraps on June 29th, 2007 10:20 am

    I’m sure it isn’t only our scouts who see this in Clement.

  15. bakomariner on June 29th, 2007 10:20 am

    12- maybe the actual bats are the difference…

  16. joser on June 29th, 2007 10:26 am

    Also, I wonder if the M’s like you exposing company secrets which might make it harder to sell him in a trade to another team.

    I believe many of the scouts Dave talks to are working for teams other than the Mariners.

    Have they still figured out the reason why his bat speed has dropped?

    Lack of aluminum in the bats?

  17. eponymous coward on June 29th, 2007 10:29 am

    That said, the M’s aren’t exactly coming out their ears with left-handed power hitters, and Safeco screams for left-handed power hitters, so I’m not sure the M’s should be giving Clement away.

    And that’s the thing- we’re talking about a 24 year old with 600 professional plate apperances who’s been aggressively pushed through the minors (less than 200 plate appearances below AAA). Johjima and Johnson give us the luxury to be patient about this.

    I’d be pretty upset if we dumped ANOTHER promising prospect for this year’s Heathcliff Slocumb, deadline deal, push for the pennant deal. If you can get Jamie Moyer for funglible arms, there’s no need to rent a pitcher for the cost of Jeff Clement. Unless we’re bringing back someone really special under team control for a while, no deal.

  18. martin026 on June 29th, 2007 10:33 am

    eponymous coward—

    If they do move him, I doubt that they would bring back a player under club control. But maybe.

    And if they do not, as Dave posted a while back, the compensation from any rent a player plus the contribution they *might* contribute may be worth it.

  19. Goob on June 29th, 2007 10:34 am

    I love statistical analysis as much as the next guy, but I love posts like these as well. For as much crap as traditional scouting gets from people, a pair of eyes watching all season certainly can catch a few things the numbers might miss. Great post, mate.

  20. Chris Miller on June 29th, 2007 10:44 am

    Traditional scouting gets crap? I find most saber people love the insight of pro scouts, especially for the stuff that’s too hard to quantify, or the data isnt’ availalbe/obvious, etc.

  21. eponymous coward on June 29th, 2007 10:46 am

    14-

    Basically, you’re cashing in the investment in Clement for a 3 month rental of an MLB veteran, and some do-over(s) in the draft from a lower position, which won’t pay off for several years (depending on if you get Type A or B compensation).

    I might also point out that what Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon ALL have in common is their teams didn’t win it all the year after they got traded- though in Schilling and Garcia’s cases, their teams won it all some time AFTER acquiring them. The 3 month rental is really overrated, in my opinion, and I really think you need more than that to give up premium prospects. If you can get Jamie Moyer for Baldwin and Barb, Clement should fetch you something more than that.

  22. joser on June 29th, 2007 10:49 am

    Generally the people who assert that “traditional scouting gets crap from stat-heads” are the same people who don’t listen to (or can’t understand) what scouts are saying either. Amd they have the same problem with stats. They just want to repeat the same empty bromides that have carried them through their career. Yes, Joe Morgan, I’m talking to you.

  23. Manzanillos Cup on June 29th, 2007 10:54 am

    Umm, explain how Jeff Clement’s change to wood bats is different from anyone else’s.

  24. bakomariner on June 29th, 2007 11:05 am

    well, wood bats are heavier…lol…

  25. Chris Miller on June 29th, 2007 11:14 am

    Joe Morgan is usually the most annoying announcer I can think of, but he can say stuff SO wrong by anyones standards it’s almost hillarious. I’m not sure even your normal non-statheads (that I know) buy into some of what he says, but since he’s “Joe Morgan Best Second Basemen Ever”, nobody seems to care. Also he does sometime have good insight from a players perspective. He has no buisness analyzing baseball outside of that perspective though.

  26. chuchaba on June 29th, 2007 11:15 am

    Jeff at LL made a comment about David Ortiz that I think is very applicable to this discussion. Essentially, Ortiz is not a very good hitter against pitchers that possess “power” stuff (.583 ops against pitchers whose K% + BB% > 28%). Despite Ortiz’s struggles with plus fastballs, he’s enjoyed his fair share of success around the league.

    When Clement is healthy, he hits very very well. Even if he only succeeds against junk balling lefties, a good amount of major league pitchers fit this billing. I believe that his success can translate to the Majors, and Jeff will be a very productive part of our team for years to come.

  27. Gomez on June 29th, 2007 11:16 am

    The post and comment 1 reveal some amazing insight that shed incredible light on the Jeff Clement batspeed/blowout-summer mystery.

    Excellent stuff, Dave.

  28. Goob on June 29th, 2007 11:32 am

    I didn’t mean to imply that all “statheads” hate traditional scouting. That’s certainly not the case. At the same time, I don’t think many people would lump Joe Morgan in with the classification of “scout.” :) He’s a horrible announcer and an excellent ex-ballplayer, that’s it in my eyes. The things he says verses what the things scouts such as the one Dave is talking about in this post shows that a person who is willing to watch baseball for living and simply can point out things of possible value that the numbers might miss at first glance. And I love how this blog embraces that fact and shows that stats and scouting can coexist and work together.

  29. Goob on June 29th, 2007 11:33 am

    Yeah…I need to proofread things before I hit that “submit comment” button. Just read the last sentence in the comment above and leave it at that!

  30. John L. Morgan on June 29th, 2007 11:36 am

    Excellent work.

  31. Eugene on June 29th, 2007 11:39 am

    What should we be more worried about, a hitter who doesn’t hit well against 92+ mph fastballs, or a hitter who doesn’t hit well against offspeed stuff?

  32. Chris Miller on June 29th, 2007 11:42 am

    #31, a hitter that doesn’t hit well (against anyone) or at least field well.

  33. 1996Coug on June 29th, 2007 11:48 am

    For my money, this is the most interesting thing presented on blog in a long time. Great read.

  34. Ralph Malph on June 29th, 2007 11:49 am

    Why would a slow bat translate into success against junkballing lefties but not junkballing righties? And conversely, lack of success against hard throwing righties but not hard throwing lefties?

    In other words, I see the correlation between a slow bat and trouble with hard throwers but I don’t see the correlation with the reverse platoon differential.

  35. Chris Miller on June 29th, 2007 11:55 am

    I suspect there are more hard throwing righties than hard throwing lefties, and more control/finesse lefties than righties, thus this is more about sample sizes than anything.

  36. Dave on June 29th, 2007 11:55 am

    12- maybe the actual bats are the difference.

    Batspeed isn’t really tied to wood or aluminum bats.

    Basically, you’re cashing in the investment in Clement for a 3 month rental of an MLB veteran, and some do-over(s) in the draft from a lower position, which won’t pay off for several years (depending on if you get Type A or B compensation).

    Do you think you can wait until the M’s trade Clement for Heathcliff Slocumb before getting upset about the M’s trading Clement for Heathcliff Slocumb?

    What should we be more worried about, a hitter who doesn’t hit well against 92+ mph fastballs, or a hitter who doesn’t hit well against offspeed stuff?

    The former. Guys who can’t hit breaking balls can be taught to not chase them, work the count, and get into fastball scenarios where they can tee off on something straight. This has been the key to Wladimir Balentien’s leap forward this year. He just won’t get himself out chasing crap anymore, and he can still hit a fastball a country mile.

    Why would a slow bat translate into success against junkballing lefties but not junkballing righties? And conversely, lack of success against hard throwing righties but not hard throwing lefties?

    The proportion of lefties who are junkballers is far higher in Triple-A than the proportion of righties who are junkballers. A guy like Jorge Campillo is a Triple-A rarity, but most Triple-A lefties are guys like Ketchner, Blackley, Parque, Meyer, etc…

    Basically, there aren’t any hard-throwing lefties in Triple-A. That’s the point the scout was making. He’s killing lefties, because lefties represent the low velocity group. Hard-throwing lefties are already in the majors.

    The reverse platoon split is basically a proxy for performance versus velocity type. Since the LHPs don’t throw as hard as their RHP brethren, the fact that he’s destroying lefties and struggling against righties supports the assertion that he has trouble with higher velocity pitches.

  37. goraniers on June 29th, 2007 12:00 pm

    Great post, Dave. I wonder how the June-August cream skimming of AAA pitchers skews the lines of some of our other prospects? AJ’s atheleticism will vault him to major league success, no doubt (hopefully soon). What about Wlad? Is he just tagging the mediocre meatballers?

  38. Dave on June 29th, 2007 12:02 pm

    I wonder how the June-August cream skimming of AAA pitchers skews the lines of some of our other prospects?

    Bryan LaHair of 2006 says hello. People got really excited about his stretch in the PCL last summer, but he’s reverted to his typical lousy form this year.

    What about Wlad? Is he just tagging the mediocre meatballers?

    No – Wlad’s power is for real, and he just crushes fastballs.

  39. _David_ on June 29th, 2007 12:09 pm

    Is Clement’s batspeed issue purely physical, as in the velocity of the swing itself, or does it have anything to do with reaction time. Is there any possibility the batspeed can improve, any precedent for something like this being fixed?

  40. terry on June 29th, 2007 12:17 pm

    This is slightly a tangent I guess but the Ms seem to have several guys in their system take nice leaps this seasons (aka Wlad, Jones, and Clements). I think this time last season, people were a lot more down on the farm system whereas now there could be some real difference makers amongst who appear on or very near the cusp.

    When several players make a leap is it luck or are the Ms doing something different from a player development standpoint?

  41. Bilbo on June 29th, 2007 12:20 pm

    #40. do you mean besides pushing players aggressively thru the system?

  42. mlb2131 on June 29th, 2007 12:21 pm

    I guess I just don’t see how a Left handed hitter mashing off speed left handed pitching can be viewed as such a negative. His OPS against righties is still .772…not horrible. I think he rocketed a double off Linecum early in the year. Perhaps a lot of his games against righties were also in Cheney?

    He’s hit at a very, very high level his entire career. If his bat is a tad slow vs. scouts expectations I’m sure that he’ll make the adjustments and improve that aspect of his game.

    He’s probably the Minor League player of the month in June. Good news if you ask me.

  43. IdahoInvader on June 29th, 2007 12:21 pm

    Could his bat speed issue be something he’s ALWAYS had maybe, something unnoticed at USC, or is this something that has gotten worse for whatever reason?

  44. Dave on June 29th, 2007 12:26 pm

    I guess I just don’t see how a Left handed hitter mashing off speed left handed pitching can be viewed as such a negative.

    He won’t face that caliber of crappy let-handed pitcher in the majors. Success against that type of player isn’t as indicative of major league talent as if he was hitting guys with major league fastballs.

    His OPS against righties is still .772…not horrible.

    Actually, for a guy who turns 24 in a few months and is playing in the PCL, that is horrible.

    He’s hit at a very, very high level his entire career.

    Except for June, 2006 to May, 2007.

    If his bat is a tad slow vs. scouts expectations I’m sure that he’ll make the adjustments and improve that aspect of his game.

    If bat speed could be improved simply by desire, everyone would be Gary Sheffield.

  45. terry on June 29th, 2007 12:27 pm

    #41: No. I mean why does it all of a sudden seem to be working?

  46. IdahoInvader on June 29th, 2007 12:29 pm

    42

    It seemed to me that Dave wasn’t negative about mashing those softer tossing lefties as much as he was regarding what Jeff WASN’T doing vs harder throwing pitchers, especially righties.

  47. Dan W on June 29th, 2007 12:29 pm

    Dave, how did Choo compare last year in Tacoma to how Clement and Wlad are looking now?

    And what’s your take on Choo, who seems to have taken a step or 3 backward in Buffalo (270/344/362 vs 323/394/499 last year)? Anything to read into this?

  48. Dave on June 29th, 2007 12:32 pm

    Choo was never that good. I’ve been calling him a Korean Todd Hollandsworth for about four years now. His defense sucks, he can’t hit lefties, he has fringey power for a corner outfielder, and he’s never worked very hard to improve.

    At this point, if he turns into Todd Hollandsworth, it’s a surprise.

  49. williebfan on June 29th, 2007 12:32 pm

    Still have to think he’d be an upgrade over Sexon. But what a waste of a draft pick. How did such professionals get so fooled?

  50. Dave on June 29th, 2007 12:35 pm

    His name is Sexson. No he wouldn’t. No it wasn’t. They didn’t.

    And, just to top it off, Willie B is still a lousy player, and you should find someone else to root for.

    /end annoyed Dave.

  51. Chris Miller on June 29th, 2007 12:54 pm

    You’re just too down on our man Willie, he just needs to work on increasing his bat speed :)

  52. AQ on June 29th, 2007 1:07 pm

    So – I was skimming through the posts and I didn’t see an answer/theory for this question: Why is Clement’s bat speed slower now? Did he sustain a nagging injury? Is he fatigued? It just seems unusual to me (perhaps it’s not so unusual?) for someone who is 24 to inexplicably lose bat speed. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen, because I am obviously not a scout. I just don’t understand how or why this would occur with someone his age (unless injury or fatigue played a role in it).

  53. Dave on June 29th, 2007 1:10 pm

    Why is Clement’s bat speed slower now?

    I don’t know. He’s had knee and back problems in the past, so perhaps he’s playing through more pain than we know? It’s really just speculation.

  54. marc w on June 29th, 2007 1:19 pm

    42 – just to clarify, Clement didn’t hit that double off of Lincecum. That was the game Timmy started, but Jeff hit the double off of reliever Brian Wilson. He looked lost against Lincecum that night but hey, he had company.

  55. darrylzero on June 29th, 2007 1:47 pm

    Dave, you mention above that Wlad’s power is for real (evidenced in part, no doubt, by his absurd April, when the good pitchers were still in AAA, ostensibly), but does this comment at all temper some of your enthusiasm about Jones’ recent June explosion?

    Obviously, Jones is a top prospect by any standard, and he should be on the Mariners right now, etc. Hell, I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a prospect (non-Felix division, and for the record, I wasn’t clued in enough to baseball to really get pumped up about A-Rod while he was still a prospect). But considering how much I’ve been drooling over his June numbers, I’m wondering if I’ve been unaware of how bad the pitchers he’s been facing recently might be.

  56. Jeff Nye on June 29th, 2007 1:49 pm

    If Willie could improve his bat speed enough to merit the love he gets in the media, he would be better served at that point to offer his services for cheap, efficient windpower generation.

    Zing!

  57. Dave on June 29th, 2007 1:50 pm

    But considering how much I’ve been drooling over his June numbers, I’m wondering if I’ve been unaware of how bad the pitchers he’s been facing recently might be.

    I think there’s a big difference between compensating for a non-prospect like Bryan LaHair who gets hot for a month or two against bad pitchers, and compensating for an elite prospect who goes bananas on the league.

    Adam Jones is for real.

  58. darrylzero on June 29th, 2007 1:56 pm

    Certainly, and I tried to make it clear that I believed wholeheartedly that he was for real. I was just wondering about getting a little overenthusiastic about June specifically. But I’m glad to hear you don’t think that’s a concern.

  59. dw on June 29th, 2007 2:24 pm

    But considering how much I’ve been drooling over his June numbers, I’m wondering if I’ve been unaware of how bad the pitchers he’s been facing recently might be.

    His April OPS was .773; Clement’s was .681. He had an OPS of .829 last year.

    His May-June OPS of over 1 probably translates into a .750 OPS at the MLB level. (I’m just guessing; Dave will be by later to point me to some quadratic equation Tom Tango wrote that supersedes Davenport translations. ) .750 puts him slightly above Guillen and Lopez.

    I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.

  60. huhwhat on June 29th, 2007 2:28 pm

    So in reference to what Scott Friend and his comments on hitters heating up because all the good arms are now gone, should we then look at Adam Jones and every other hot hitter since the beginning of the year as a farce in terms of there ability?

    48 – About Choo, I always thought he should have stayed a pitcher cause I never saw him converting very well and thought that the M’s were making a mistake by trying to make someone a position player when he has spent most of his time as a pitcher.

  61. williebfan on June 29th, 2007 2:50 pm

    Prickly today, aren’t we Dave?

  62. awolfgang on June 29th, 2007 2:51 pm

    thought that the M’s were making a mistake by trying to make someone a position player when he has spent most of his time as a pitcher.

    Hasn’t worked out to bad for Rick Ankiel.

  63. Calderon on June 29th, 2007 2:53 pm

    “He can’t hit lefties” is a subjective weakness in the player evaluation process. It’s blown out of proportion IMO.

    There are far too many big leaguers that struggle versus lefties to consider this a reason a prospect can’t hit in the majors. It will also have you go down the slippery slope of arguing for or against platoons using young players.

    I watched Clement last year and his bat speed was slow back then also. He could not turn on consecutive fastballs off Angel Guzman. Couldn’t even make contact to foul it off.

  64. The Ancient Mariner on June 29th, 2007 2:56 pm

    The problem isn’t that Clement can’t hit lefties, it’s that he can’t hit anybody with a good fastball. Which, if his glove was coming along the way we were all assured it was, wouldn’t be a problem; if he’s taking the Eric Munson career path, though, then it is.

    From what I’m hearing, I can understand Dave’s reluctance to move him, but I hope we do; Kenji’s playing well enough that we have time to come up with another catcher of the future, and I don’t think Clement’s the catcher of the future anymore. Which, since I don’t want to turn this into a trade speculation thread, leads me to make a request: Dave, would it be possible to do a thread looking at our top prospects and what kind of deal(s) would justify moving them at (or before) the deadline?

  65. planB on June 29th, 2007 2:57 pm

    63: I thought the problem was that he can’t hit RHP / fastballs… he murders LHP.

  66. Calderon on June 29th, 2007 2:57 pm

    While were at it let’s ignore the 38 homeruns LaHair hit the previous two seasons, and brush off Bryan as a non-prospect with a little more than two months left in the season.

  67. The Ancient Mariner on June 29th, 2007 2:58 pm

    Err, a post, I should say. I think the point’s still clear, though: if we’re going to try to make the playoffs this season and looking to deal for help, what return justifies moving Clement, or Wlad the Impaler, etc.?

  68. The Ancient Mariner on June 29th, 2007 2:59 pm

    “While were at it let’s ignore the 38 homeruns LaHair hit the previous two seasons, and brush off Bryan as a non-prospect with a little more than two months left in the season.”

    No, actually, let’s understand the cause for that fluke and realize that he’s still a non-prospect.

  69. Calderon on June 29th, 2007 2:59 pm

    65: That was regarding Choo.

  70. Dave on June 29th, 2007 3:04 pm

    There are far too many big leaguers that struggle versus lefties to consider this a reason a prospect can’t hit in the majors.

    It’s a problem, whether you think it is or not.

    While were at it let’s ignore the 38 homeruns LaHair hit the previous two seasons, and brush off Bryan as a non-prospect with a little more than two months left in the season.

    Hitting 22 home runs in the Cal League isn’t an accomplishment. Juan Silvestre, anyone?

    Bryan LaHair is not a prospect. He’s an organizational player.

  71. Calderon on June 29th, 2007 3:08 pm

    You have to be patient with prospects. Look at Wlad’s numbers last year.

    Anyone here think Balentien would put up the numbers he has in his first season against PCL pitching?

    He’s out hitting Adam Jones right now with a .581 slugging pct and leading the team in half a dozen offensive categories. And everyone wants to trade him? My oh my.

  72. Calderon on June 29th, 2007 3:14 pm

    Dave, patience is all I’m advocating. In scouting prospects it’s hit or miss. I choose not to ignore Bryan’s performance at the lower levels.

    Anyone remember Jack Cust? He’s a big leaguer whether you think or not.

  73. Dave on June 29th, 2007 3:15 pm

    You choose not to ignore a bad performance in Wisconsin, a medicore performance in Inland Empire, followed by a bad performance in San Antonio? Awesome.

    Bryan LaHair has had a two week run in his entire life where he was any kind of real hitter. That was last August. It was a mirage.

  74. bhsmarine on June 29th, 2007 3:16 pm

    Is Clement feasting off the junk ballers fastballs or can he hit off speed stuff? If he is waiting for that 89MPH fastball only then I think there is room for concern. If he is crushing good sliders and curves then I think it is a positive thing to look at. This is assuming he hits RH junk ballers the same.

  75. awolfgang on June 29th, 2007 3:16 pm

    Dave, I just read over at the P-I about all the pitchers soon to come of the DL and the impending roster dilema that could insue. Do you really think that Hargrove would send down Feierabend and let HoRam continue to pitch?

  76. TomC on June 29th, 2007 4:07 pm

    Is there any data out there supporting the possibility that a 20 something year old man can improve his bat speed? Can a workout regimen increase bat speed, for instance? Or do we assume that all AAA players are at their bat speed maximum and that further offensive improvements come from better pitch selection? Honestly, I don’t know the answer to this. I defer to the wisdom and knowledge of this august crowd.

  77. Bucks on June 29th, 2007 4:11 pm

    on another completely different note, [deleted, off-topic]

  78. Colm on June 29th, 2007 4:12 pm

    Yes, he should have retired at the end of last year!

  79. JH on June 29th, 2007 4:28 pm

    I’m not going to go back and crunch the numbers on this or anything, but it would be interesting to see how Clement is hitting righties in May and June to see if those numbers are trending towards respectability along with his overall batting line.

    Seems tough for me to believe he could be putting up that June line while still being completely helpless against righties.

  80. Gomez on June 29th, 2007 4:57 pm

    [ot]

  81. Goose on June 29th, 2007 5:01 pm

    I see Logan has made an appearance. Still touting Brian LaHair as the best prospect in the system? LOL.

  82. Matthew Carruth on June 29th, 2007 5:11 pm

    Where is Scout Friend scouting Clement? At Cheney, on the road or a mix? If a mix, how heavy of a mix?

  83. Ralph Malph on June 29th, 2007 5:56 pm

    Hasn’t worked out to bad for Rick Ankiel.

    Bit early to say that. And you need another “o” in too.

  84. debaser on June 29th, 2007 10:13 pm

    I think the implication that Clement’s success lately is because top prospect arms are being promoted to the majors at a rate exceeding that of AA to AAA promotions should be challenged, or at least not accepted at face value without some evidence.

    Of the elite arms named in post #1, only Gallardo and Lincecum played in the PCL, and Gallardo was called up relatively recently. Tacoma has yet to play New Orleans this year, and Clement held his own against Lincecum– 2 for 7 with 2 doubles, a walk, and two strikeouts.

    Furthermore, there are a number of prospects with major league arms still in the PCL: Ubaldo Jimenez, Humber and Pelfrey from New Orleans, most of the Round Rock rotation, a good number of arms from Omaha, and Eric Hurley just got added to Oklahoma.

    I’m just not sure we should buy the underlying assumption– that AAA generally experiences a depletion of pitching quality from June through August. It’s a narrative that seems to make sense on the surface, but does the evidence support Scout Friend’s assumptions here?

  85. debaser on June 29th, 2007 10:19 pm

    Oops.. I meant to say “Tacoma has yet to play _Nashville_ this year,” not _New Orleans_….

  86. darrylzero on June 29th, 2007 10:53 pm

    debaser… You’re probably right, but I’m not sure that helps Clement that much. I mean, whether or not the bit about promotions is accurate this year (sounds like more of something to keep in mind rather than a knock against Clement specifically), he’s still only killing soft-tossing lefties. That’s still a good sign, that he can kill even soft-tossing lefties, but it matter regardless of how many aces he might have faced sans-callups.

    Whether or not that’s just par for the course in thinking about the AAA –> MLB transition is an interesting question though.

  87. Oly Rainiers Fan on June 29th, 2007 11:06 pm

    Dave:

    I must be missing the plot. The scout and the stats are both saying Clement can’t get around on a good fastball, and the stats say he’s not hitting well against RH pitching. You’re saying (I think) that the two are related (i.e., he’s sucking against RH pitching BECAUSE they’re largely throwing him good fastballs he can’t get around on).

    Then in post 10, you’re like ‘we (and everybody else) need LH power hitters’ (paraphrased), as if that has anything to do with Clement.

    But isn’t the point of having a LH power hitter that LH generally hit RH pitchers better than LH pitchers – which Clement isn’t doing? I’m unclear how that makes him ‘LH sock’ that us or other teams want… I mean, isn’t the definition of ‘LH sock’ = LH batter who tears up RH fastball pitching? And we always want it because the majority of pitchers are RH. Isn’t that what we’re always looking for (and that we never find)?

    As an aside…Carl Everett is playing Indy League ball for the Long Island Ducks.

  88. mlb2131 on June 30th, 2007 7:30 am

    Clement does indeed have a double against Linecum, but only 1.

    His other double against Fresno that won the game in the bottom of the 9th was against a reliever, righty Brian Wilson….does he throw hard? ;) .

  89. Bilbo on June 30th, 2007 10:34 am

    Well his BABIP against LH is very high at .413 and his BABIP against righties is very low at .264, which would largely account for his weird reverse splits. Also, his K:BB against LH is 15:10 and against RH it is 30:20 so he is seeing the ball very well. Also, don’t guys with slow bats (especially LH) usually struggle against same handed pitchers first since the reaction time is a little slower?

    I think the scout is a little off base and is defending his previous position as much as anything. Clement can hit LH and RH and his bat will play in MLB.

  90. bookbook on June 30th, 2007 8:58 pm

    This is fascinating. Thanks for bringing us this insight, Dave.

    I have generally believed the AAAA player is a jackalope, rather than an actual subclass of players. (No, Petagine’s 7 plate appearances with the M’s didn’t convince me otherwise.)

    I will neither write Clement off, nor raise him exalted to the heaven’s based on the past month and a half. As I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to do.

    Other sources of evidence: would a player with a slow bat hit more to the opposite field, because he wouldn’t have time to pull the ball, or is that overthinking it?

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