Top 50 Prospects: #13 - Clay Timpner

Clay Timpner has some good tools. If he keeps them, he might resemble his current tutor, a former Giant who holds an impressive major league record. But the Giants have hopes that Timpner might resemble a certain current Giant if he can continue to develop.

Date of Birth: 05/13/1983 Position: CF Height: 6'2 Weight: 195 Bats: L Throws: L
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th Round (#130 Overall) of the 2004 Draft
2005 Stats
San Jose - High -A .291 .334 .397 .732 549 85 160 22 12 4 39 34 93 34 13

The obvious skills of Clay Timpner seem to have punched him a fairly sure ticket into the majors. But it’s the skills that haven’t developed yet that the Giants hope will make him a starter.

Timpner, the 3rd of the three outfielders the Giants took at the top of the 2004 draft, already has a solid skill set that’s made him valuable. In 2005, he was voted the Best Defensive Outfielder and Best Baserunner in the California League, and the Best Defensive Outfielder in the Giants minor league system. But beyond having the tools, Timpner is a polished, intelligent player who leads on the field by example, and always keeps his head in the game, so he makes the most of the tools. He also used his speed to lead the California League in triples, and tie for the 8th most in all of the major leagues. He also has a good arm, and was originally drafted by the Rangers out of high school as a pitcher.

Speed and defense are solid tools and don’t usually regress over a minor league career. Having those tools usually can be enough to get into the majors, and especially when a center fielder has them, can sometimes be enough for a starting job. Timpner has been one of the star pupils of Giants roving outfielder instructor Darren Lewis, who himself had a solid major league career, mostly with the Giants, based on speed and defense. Lewis still owns the major league record for non-pitchers for most consecutive games without an error, 369 games.

But it’s what Timpner hasn’t developed yet that the Giants still have some hopes for. When Timpner was drafted, he was most often compared to longtime Brian Sabean favorite Steve Finley. Indeed, in build they are very similar, and in Spring Training this year (both players will attend for the Giants), it might be easy for an observer to confuse the two of them.

But for Timpner to become a more Finley-esque player in production, he will certainly have to increase his power. He had only 4 home runs in a league that is ideal for home run hitters, after having a hope-inducing 5 in only 68 games at Salem-Keizer in his pro debut. Now, Finley wasn’t much of a home run hitter in the minors himself, with his highest total in a single season being 6. Finley, in fact, didn’t reach double digits in the majors until his 6th season in the bigs at 29. But Timpner does, like Finley, have a good number of extra base hits that don’t leave the park, and the hope is that Timpner, as he grows, can turn some of those line drive doubles and triples into balls that clear the fence.

This isn’t to say there aren’t other things Timpner couldn’t stand to improve. His career batting average in the minors is identical to the .291 he put up in the 2005 season alone. But if the power doesn’t fill out, it’d be more ideal for him to be putting up averages over .300 if he wants to be seriously considered for a fulltime role at the top of a major league order. He has a solid walk number, but that might also be a good area to improve to increase his chances for becoming a valuable leadoff hitter. And, as a left handed hitter, he’s got a predictable drop in stats against left handed pitching. It’s not quite platoon numbers, but working on a better approach with southpaws on the mound would be a boon to his batting average and on base percentage. He’ll likely be joining most of his California League teammates in Connecticut this year, in a AA that isn’t hitter friendly, so next season will be the time for working on the batting average and on base percentages. Leave improving power to the Pacific Coast League.

Whichever player he turns out to resemble more, Darren Lewis or Steve Finley, Clay Timpner is the type of guy that managers love. He comes out every day, stays healthy and puts out effort to improve every day. He’s a major leaguer, that much is pretty clear. What kind of major leaguer is what will be determined in the coming seasons.

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