Trevor Clifton, P
Age: 19 (5/11/1995)
How acquired:—Drafted in the 12th round in 2013 (# 348 overall) out of Heritage High School, TN. Scouted by Keith Rymon.
Boise Hawks, Northwest League, Short Season (13 G, 4-2, 3.69 ERA, 61 IP, 30 BB, 54 K, 1.46 WHIP)
Prior to Cubs
A member of Team USA 16-U that captured the gold medal at the IBAF World Youth Championship in Mexico in 2011, Clifton had the Cubs attention since his junior year at Heritage High School in Maryville, Tennessee. Kept on an innings limit in high school, he went 3-2 with a 3.55 ERA, recording 79 strikeouts in 39.2 innings, and received a scholarship to the University of Kentucky. Heading into the draft, Clifton was ranked #100 by Scout.com and #148 by Baseball America but fell in the draft over reported financial demands. The Cubs gave the only high school arm they signed a reported $375,000 bonus, well above the $100,000 slot limit.
The Tennessee native made his pro debut on July 26 tossing a scoreless inning with a pair of walks against the Angels. Clifton appeared in eight games, throwing 10.1 innings (0-0 6.97 ERA) in the Arizona Rookie League. Clifton fanned 15 but allowed 13 hits and walked eight. The Cubs limited the length of his outings as he went two frames his final three appearances with nine strikeouts and only one walk.
Clifton added 61 innings to his career resume, making 13 starts for Boise in the Northwest League. Named a NWL All-Star, the Tennessee native went 4-2 with a 3.69 ERA, and more importantly gained valuable experience. After his first spring camp and an extra two months in Mesa, Clifton headed north and made his debut on June 15. It was a roller coaster season for the youngster as he struggled with his command and some early exits due to pitch count limits. He earned his first pro win June 27 vs. Hillsboro (6 IP, 1H, 1R, 2 BB, 6K) and had his best outing on Aug 25 against Everett, with seven shutout innings and no walks, his only game without issuing a free pass. Clifton averaged 8.0 K/9 but walked 4.4.
Clifton looks like a lock to make the South Bend rotation and could be in the mix as the opening night starter. At 6-foot-4, Clifton has the frame of a power pitcher and has been clocked at 97 mph but his fastball sits in the low 90s. He also throws a curve and change-up and his ability to become a MLB starter will depend on the command of those two pitches. Clifton should log over 100 innings in his first full season and like any young arm, health will be an issue as he moves forward. Clifton has a few years before he’s ready for Wrigley but could be a big part of the Cubs future if his command improves.