2010 MLB Draft Q&A: Chevez Clarke

Hitting up a storm at Marietta HS in Georgia, Chevez Clarke has emerged as one of the top positional prospects in the 2010 draft. We sat down with the switch-hitting centerfielder to discuss his goals, how he learned to hit from both sides of the plate, and his offensive approach.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I've seen you listed at both 5'11" and 6'0", and 185 lbs. Where are you now?

Chevez Clarke: Well, I haven't grown that much, I'm still 5'11", but right now I'm about 187 to 189 lbs.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you play any other sports besides baseball?

Chevez Clarke: No, just baseball. It's been baseball since I was five years old.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What drew you to Georgia Tech?

Chevez Clarke: Well, I love the Plan B that Georgia Tech brings; in case I get hurt or baseball doesn't work out I can fall back on the degree that Georgia Tech provides, and it will help me get a job much easier here in Georgia.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft?

Chevez Clarke: Well, I think about it here and there, but really I just focus on going out and playing the game hard, and when the draft comes we'll see what happens.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Has your family retained an advisor yet?

Chevez Clarke: No, not yet, but it will probably be Aces.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When you allow yourself to dream of being a professional baseball player, what is the image you get in your head?

Chevez Clarke: I know that I have a big goal when I reach the Major Leagues. If I get drafted and everything goes well, I don't want to be just playing under the lights and starting, I want to play for the Hall of Fame – that's my ultimate goal. My dream is to be in the Hall of Fame.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you found yourself in the situation where you were drafted and a team presented you with good terms, is playing right out of high school something you're interested in?

Chevez Clarke: Oh yeah, that's something that I would probably take. I want the quickest route to the Hall of Fame, whether it's college or the pros.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from at this point?

Chevez Clarke: Pretty much all thirty.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So that obviously includes the Yankees?

Chevez Clarke: Yeah, actually I just got off the phone with our area scout, Darryl Monroe. He wanted to know what's going on with the game tomorrow because we're scheduled but we've gotten a lot of rain.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How did switch-hitting come about for you?

Chevez Clarke: Well, it's funny, I was in the backyard playing baseball with my dad and he jumped to the left side when I was pitching to him, and he was hitting the ball pretty good – his swing looked pretty nice – so I said "I think I'm going to try that!" So I jumped over to the left side and I had a good swing – there was a lot of potential in it – so we worked with it. In the first game that I hit left-handed I was 13 years old and I got a hit up the middle and it's just carried on from there.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How do your hitting tools vary from each side?

Chevez Clarke: I actually can do everything very well from both sides. In a high school game this year I hit a homerun to the opposite field righthanded, and this past summer I hit a homerun to left-centerfield from the left side, so I can do things from both sides very well.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Can you describe yourself from a technical standpoint as a hitter to the draft fans out there?

Chevez Clarke: I'm the kind of guy that hits early in the lineup, like a one or two bat; I'm basically a tone-setter. Based on what I do, my team should be aware of what the pitcher does – if he has any habits and if he telegraphs his pitches. Really what I concentrate on with my swing is to always think about driving my back elbow through my navel and to work my back leg, because I know I used to have a problem with using my back leg more on both sides; I used to drift a lot. Now we've made a lot of adjustments, so now I'm using my back leg more. I've always had quick hands from both sides, so that was never a problem. It's all about staying relaxed and letting it come to me.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What's your approach?

Chevez Clarke: It depends on the situation. If it's the first inning and I'm leading off the game, usually I will try to give my team some looks because I believe I can hit with two strikes. Usually early in the count I like to look for something either outer half or inside, because I do like to go the other way sometimes when I lead off the game, usually I like to look for something middle-in. Late in the count I'm just bearing down on anything close, I have to protect myself.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You've mentioned opposite field a couple of times now. Is that something you do often, or is it the kind of thing you'll just do every once in a while when it's there?

Chevez Clarke: Well, usually guys try to bust me inside, but what a lot of people don't know is that I'm really my best on the inside pitches; I can really turn on them. I concentrate on the outside now because I used to always pull the ball on the left side, so now I just look for anything away and when I get it I do what I need to do with it, but usually guys will bust me in early in the count and I end up using my fast hands to get to it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What's your personality on the field?

Chevez Clarke: I'm very intense. I'm not vocal, but you can see in my play that I'm very intense - I'm always hustling on and off the field. They say I always smile, but when I'm on the field you'll hardly see one.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You said you hit one or two in the lineup. Where will you be this year?

Chevez Clarke: I'm the leadoff on my team this year.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much is speed a part of your game?

Chevez Clarke: Oh, speed is a big part, I think that's one of my strongest tools. I know recently I was clocked at 6.41, and I'm working my way up to a 6.3 now. We've been setting speed goals for a while now. Two years ago when I was 15 we shot for a 6.7 and we reached that. Then we went for a 6.5. We passed that and we're at 6.3 as the goal now.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How about your power? It's got to be decent if you're able to put balls out the opposite way…

Chevez Clarke: A lot of people don't know that about me, because it doesn't happen as often as the doubles, but I can get ahold of one once I do everything I need to do at the plate.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Defensively, you're listed primarily as an outfielder, but I've seen places where you are said to play infield as well. Where do you see yourself?

Chevez Clarke: I see myself playing in centerfield just because I know I can cover a lot of ground, so I'm really confident in that position, but I know growing up as a child I was a shortstop, so that's probably where I got a lot of my athletic ability from.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it like playing at both Wrigley and Petco for the Under Armour and Aflac games?

Chevez Clarke: Oh, both of the games were great. I know it was an honor playing with all of those talented guys, and to be named along with them to the teams. A lot of guys work hard to make that game, and for me to be chosen was a blessing for me. I really enjoyed myself in those games. It was an unbelievable feeling to step onto those fields. You know you always see it on TV, and with Wrigley being one of the oldest parks in history, you step out on that field and it's still nice. Petco is unbelievable – we got to go in the locker room for the game, and it was like a real Major League game; we got a taste of what it was like, and I loved it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Speaking of the Major Leagues, what team are you a fan of?

Chevez Clarke: I really like the Phillies because I'm a fan of any team that Jimmy Rollins is on.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So Rollins is one of the guys you look up to – are there any others? Maybe an outfielder that you model yourself after?

Chevez Clarke: Well, I know Rollins plays infield, but I really simulate my swing like his because I know he's a switch-hitter and we have some similarities in our swings – we do the toe-tap which helps me as a timing mechanism. In the outfield I really look up to Carlos Beltran.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you gotten any comparisons from scouts?

Chevez Clarke: Well I did hear Jimmy Rollins a couple of times, I've heard Dernard Span, and I've heard I'm a mix of Torii Hunter and Beltran.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal one skill from anyone else in your draft class, whose skill would you steal, and why?

Chevez Clarke: That would be Mitchell Shifflett's speed. I know I'm a pretty fast guy, but once you see that guy run it's just like "WOW." I mean, he looks like he's not even trying. I saw him run a 6.11, I was there and I saw how he ran it, and it was unbelievable. One of my good friends that got drafted in '08, Xavier Avery, he ran a 6.17 and I was there close to him, but once I saw that record broken all I could say was "wow."

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who's the toughest pitcher you've faced?

Chevez Clarke: I would have to say Jameson Taillon. His fastball has a lot of life in it, but his curveball is something that really sticks out in my mind. I know that I got a hit off it in the Aflac game, but once I got to first I was like "oh my goodness, did you see that pitch?" That hammer – that's the pitch right there.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is this whole situation like for you, having these great opportunities but also a lot of pressure?

Chevez Clarke: I'm very blessed to have the challenge and I thank God for all the things he's done for me, but I know that some kids look up to me, so I have to be an example to them, and even my teammates. We're on the same team, and they're seeing all these scouts come, so it's kind of awkward at times. I remember the first time they came to my school I was hitting in the cage and there were about thirty scouts in there watching, and for my team to be there too you could feel the tension in the air. So I try to be as cool as possible and not talk about it a lot because I know some of them look up to me and I don't want to create the impression that I'm superior to them. I'm still a kid, I'm still 18 years old, you can talk to me about anything, and most of all I want to make sure this situation doesn't cause any tension between me and my teammates.

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