Clevlen was a star athlete for Westwood High School, and was taken in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft by the Tigers. Brent was projected as a fringe first-round talent, whom the Tigers were thrilled to find available with their second choice. Upon signing for $805,000, Clevlen began raking right away in the Gulf Coast League, notching a .330/.372/.495 line as a rookie.
Brent continued his success with West Michigan of the Midwest League in 2003, despite the pitcher-friendly confines of Fifth Third Park. After his first two seasons, Clevlen was considered to be one of the top prospects in the system, and a likely candidate to hit Detroit by late 2006. Then came his dismal 2004 season with Lakeland. Clevlen regressed in every facet of his game during a rough season that dramatically tarnished his prospect star. Brent bounced back in a huge way while repeating the Florida State League in 2005, taking home FSL MVP and TigsTown Organizational Player of the Year honors with a .302/.387/.484 season.
With his first taste of AA came more struggles, as Clevlen never really got going at Erie in 2006. His last full month with the ‘Wolves was his best, as he posted a .266/.355/.489 line and took home the TigsTown Player of the Month award for Erie. His potential alone earned him a couple of brief call-ups to Detroit. His time in Detroit went well, including several runners gunned down, and a monster homerun off of David Wells, over the Green Monster and on to Lansdowne Street in Boston.
The Tigers continued to hold out hope that things would click for Clevlen, but 2007 proved to be another difficult season for the then 23-year old outfielder. Clevlen was struggling at Triple-A Toledo before going down with an injury in mid-May. For the season, Brent managed only a .220 batting average for the Mudhens, while knocking only seven home runs and striking out 113 times in only 90 games.
Clevlen may have gotten some of his prospect luster back in 2008, as he turned in a much better season after returning to Triple-A. He was named TigsTown Toledo Player of the Month in May after he hit a whopping .359/.450/.660 in 29 games. For the season, he ranked ninth in the International League in both triples (7) and home runs (22), and finished eighth in runs driven in (82). After all was said and done, Clevlen's season was enough to garner him Tigstown's Toledo Player of the Year honors.
Clevlen is a superb athlete, also having been recruited as a potential Division I college quarterback, and a natural baseball player. The game comes easy to him, and he typically looks fluid and confident in all his actions on the field. At the plate, Clevlen has below-average pitch recognition skills and while he has worked hard to curtail his habits of chasing wild pitches, he still has a strong propensity for swinging at bad balls. His plate discipline must take another step forward; otherwise he will never have sustained success against advanced pitching. His power potential is top notch, but his swing gets long and he goes into streaks where he pops the ball up routinely. Clevlen must refine his aggressive approach at the plate, and continue to maintain a short, quick stroke to be a successful offensive player at higher levels.
Defensively, Clevlen has solid average range, and instincts that have progressed rapidly in recent seasons. His speed is enough that he could cover center in a pinch, but he is much better suited to a corner slot. His arm is very strong (arguably the strongest in the system) and accurate. After some bouts with focusing while in the field, Clevlen has turned himself into a superb defender, and someone who continually works at his craft.
Overall, he has the ceiling to be a perennial All-Star in right or left field. His offensive and defensive package – with consistency – could push him to be an incredible asset in Detroit. At this time, he projects very much in the mold of former Tiger Craig Monroe, but that projection could be shattered if he learns to harness all his abilities.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% AAA
Clevlen has demonstrated good work and training habits, but he has battled some nagging injuries throughout the last couple of seasons. He is far from being classified as an injury prone player, but at this point he shouldn't be counted on for an entire season; as it is likely he will miss 15-20 games at some point each year.
This is a huge year in Clevlen's development. He enters big league spring training out of options and he must make the Detroit roster or risk being passed through waivers to get back to Toledo. He has played well early in camp, but he will have to do more than that and possibly hope for some injuries to make the team. If he plays well, but doesn't make the team, it is unlikely he will clear waivers and his time with the Tigers may come to an end. He still has an outstanding ceiling because of his raw skills, but as his strikeout problems remain, his chances of reaching that ceiling continue to decrease.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.