MLB Draft Profile: Taylor Clarke, RHP

Jeff Ellis profiles an under-the-radar 2015 MLB Draft prospect, RHP Taylor Clarke of College of Charleston.

Name: Taylor Clarke
Position: RHP
Height/Weight: 6’4’’, 190
Bats/Throws: R/R

I was originally going to write on Thomas Eshelman for this capsule, but I realized that I had written on him a lot. I think I have basically said all there is to say about Eshelman at this point and he will still get more analysis in my next big board.

Instead of writing on Eshelman, I threw it out to Twitter to see who readers wanted to hear more about and got a few responses on who I should do a bonus capsule on this week. I want to thank everyone who submitted a name, but in the end I wanted to find a player preferably that I didn’t know all that well and had not written about at all this year.

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This is how I ended up writing about Taylor Clarke from the College of Charleston.

Clarke has a background that is somewhat reminiscent of Jeff Degano of Indiana State. Clarke started out at a lower division school; for him it was Towson. After his freshman year, there was some concern the program might fold. It ended up being saved but Clarke transferred to College of Charleston. Before he could pitch for CoC, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2013 season. He came back and pitched well last year, sitting in the low 90s or high 80s. He hit 93 a handful of times. Clarke was draft eligible but no one rolled the dice which appears to be a mistake a year later.

This year things have changed for Clarke. In his second year after surgery, his velocity has jumped. He was sitting 90-93 most days and hitting 95 this season. He showed much improved command; his walks per nine were halved and his strikeouts per nine went up near four a game. His hit rate also dropped but not as dramatically as the other two. Clarke’s command has been extremely good this year which is part of the reason it made sense to write on him in place of Eshelman. While Eshleman leads the nation in walks per nine, Clarke is 18th. He is also 8th in ERA and 12th in hits per nine. In other words, he has been one of the best pitchers in the NCAA this year.

The positives are that Clarke is a big kid at 6’4” and 190 pounds, who has seen velocity growth and could see even more. He has a typical three-pitch mix of fastball, change-up and a slider. Clarke is also a pretty solid athlete which helps him repeat his mechanics which are clean. The slider is a solid swing-and-miss pitch. I am not sure if the fact he just turned 22 is a positive or a negative. It might give teams more leverage since he is a senior in age.

The negatives are that, as mentioned before, he is older than most of the juniors eligible for the draft. This is something that will affect his value in terms of cash but could help his value in terms of where he is picked. I think we all know in the end cash is more important than where you are picked for these kids. His changeup needs some work. He is also a small school guy but pitched well on the big stage last year in the College World Series and will get a shot again this year as College of Charleston is a two seed.

This was a harder comparison to track down. I would project out Clarke as more of a 4/5 type right now. He could have a chance to be more especially as his secondary stuff develops and if he continues to add and sustain velocity. I went looking for a right-handed, backend starter, who relies primary on his fastball and slider with a change, and is 6’3” or bigger.

This caused me to find one player who fit the bill, Kyle Gibson of the Twins. Typically I like to have a longer track record with these comps but this felt like a solid comparison. Both players have had Tommy John surgery. Gibson is bigger at 6’6” but was also known coming out of Missouri for his really solid slider. He also had some rumors of arm trouble which caused him to slide on his draft day. Gibson has been really good this year. He has already matched his WAR for all of last season. There are some signs he could be in for a degree of regression though. It’s not an ideal comparison but finding a back-end type who fits Clarke’s mold is rather hard to find.

Taylor Clarke is certainly an interesting player. He should go in the 3-5 round range. He could see his name called even earlier if a team feels like they can save a few bucks and sign him cheaper due to his age. He has the size and velocity jump to intrigue teams and if he has some good performances on the big stage, he could see his stock trek upward even more.

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