T-Clip Flying High On the Farm

The Yankees have been said to have some of their best talent in their minor league system at the lower levels of the organization. Now, Tyler Clippard has to obviously be a prime example of that as he has a breakout season here in 2004. The Yankees showed a lot of faith in him by sending him straight to Battle Creek and completely skipping short season, Staten Island. "T-Clip" has certainly lived up to their expectations as he has become the ace all season long for the Battle Creek Yankees.

Tyler Clippard has just about every tool that it takes to become a very good starting pitcher. But, at this point, he has not received the attention that he may truly warrant because of the fact that he plays at such a low level in the organization. However, the guy is still only 19 years old, so it is not like he is dominating a league that he is too old for. But, it is important to remember that no matter how gaudy a player's statistics may look, it is just as important to see how he adapts to a higher level. Just how good is Tyler Clippard anyway? Well, let's look at it this way, he has mastered both levels he has played in thus far with somewhat of the greatest of ease. Also, he has even bypassed one level in the farm system. We all know the Yankees and how they handle their farm system and their prospects and it is usually very conservative and methodical. However, this is far from the case with Tyler Clippard.

 

When the Yankees got their hands on Tyler Clippard in lat year's draft, they got a gift in itself actually. He was a player that had already committed to attending the University of South Florida with a very strong intent on going there. But, suddenly, things changed very quickly for the the young Clippard. Things were good for the 18 year old ace of the Mitchell High School pitching staff. Not to mention, in the season prior as a junior, he compiled the county's second best ERA. The fact is, that maybe things went to his head a little bit. Being a sought after draft prospect, heading for a big, Division I college and not to mention a star in his own home town. Only a few games into his Mitchell High School season, T-Clip got himself into some trouble. He was arrested on DUI charges in Pasco County, Florida. To make things worse, he did not inform his coaches of the incident which obviously did not help the righthander's case. Officials at his high school saw it only right that Clippard be dismissed from the team for the entire season. "We did not know about this, and we obviously wish them to be truthful and honest with us," Mitchell Ian Mooney told the St. Petersburg Times. "He's sorry for it, and I hope this is something we can get past," Clippard's father, Bob, said. "It's a shame because he's never really had any indiscretions like this, and he's a good kid. We're trying to make a good thing out of a bad thing now." Everyone truly knew that Clippard was not a guy that caused trouble or got into any trouble so this came as shock while also it probably taught him a lesson. After this incident, Clippard obviously had some legal punishments such as community service but the biggest one to him was that there would be no more baseball for him in high school. His family transferred him to Dunedin but they learned soon after that he was not allowed to play for their team either. Tyler Clippard was a draft prospect without a place to showcase. But, little did he know, he had a team in waiting for him in the 2003 draft that would be thrilled to acquire him.

 

When Tyler Clippard was thrown off his high school baseball team, that would end his run as an ace, amateur pitcher and open up a new one as a Major League prospect only a few months later. Before his removal from the team, Clippard could have very easily gone in the first five rounds in the 2003 MLB Amateur Draft but his stock had dropped slightly just because of a small mistake in life. But, this did not sour the New York Yankees on him one bit. Remember, Clippard did have signability issues at the time as well. Many officials truly thought that he would spurn his draft selection and head for college. As it turns out, he did not go for college. The New York Yankees selected T-Clip in the 9th round of the draft and he signed right away. "I'm very excited,"  Clippard told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's a great organization, and I like that I'll be able to start off locally here in Tampa." "I love everything about the University of South Florida and I really would like to play there," Clippard said. "But getting drafted where I did, especially by the Yankees, I'm going to have to pass (college) up." When asked about his incident and his arrest, Clippard showed great maturity and that he had learned from that mistake. "It's all over now and I'm a Yankee," said the lanky righty. Yes, he certainly was a Yankee but he would not have to go very far to start off his professional career.

 

Clippard was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Yankees, not far from home, and made an immediate impact. For the season, Clippard put up fantastic statistics. He went 3-3 with an excellent 2.89 ERA. However, the absolutely most impressive statistic was the strikeouts and the walks. Check out this stat. T-Clip struck out 56 batters in 43.2 innings pitched while walking only five. That is incredible at any level of play. This is where scouts really started to turn their heads to watch Tyler Clippard. Not only did he have advanced stuff in his pitching arsenal, but he also had an advanced feel for pitching, that is incredibly rare in a pitcher of any age. 

 

Ok, so Clippard had a good season in the Gulf Coast League. What do you do with him now? Here is what the Yankees did. They decided that Clippard would bypass Staten Island and head for full season, Battle Creek. It was in doubt whether such a youngster could handle it yet but Clippard quickly reversed any thoughts of that. As a matter of fact, he became the ace of the Battle Creek pitching staff. He leads the staff in strikeouts with 133 in 131.2 innings pitched. But, remember, his main asset is his control. He has walked only 28 all season which in less than two per nine innings pitched. T-Clip has been the constant for this pitching staff with his impressive 3.21 ERA. He also leads the staff in innings pitched, being the consummate workhorse for Battle Creek this season.

 

Perspectives:

 

Former Teammate in Battle Creek, Eric Duncan: "Tyler Clippard impresses me the most. For a 19-year-old kid to come out of the Gulf Coast League - a league where most players are older -  he's done a great job.  He's got poise on the mound, control, looks like a veteran pitcher, I'm really impressed by him."

 

Battle Creek Yankees Broadcaster, Jeff Hem: "Tyler Clippard, at 19, is one of the younger pitchers. His fastball has significant movement, and for a young pitcher to have so few walks is impressive."

 

With a devastating curveball that he can literally play with a hitter's head with to go along with a not overpowering but an incredibly great moving fastball, Tyler Clippard can be nearly unhittable. Also, he has showed great strides in his development by improving his changeup. That third pitch has done wonders for him and his career as a starting pitcher. The Yankee organization sees a bright future ahead of this young righthander. He is considered by many to be one of their best high school pitching draftees since Zach Day. Well, he has done nothing to discourage those thoughts. It should be interesting to see where Clippard pitches and at what level we will see him at next season. But there is little doubt that T-Clip will be flying high in 2005.


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