This means war

Minor League rosters
A real writer on the Yanks farm system

It seems that some people don’t like that I rated Tyler Clippard as the Yanks 12th best prospect, but in fact, if it wasn’t for a string of elbow surgeries, he’d have been 15th.

No, I do not have a personal vendetta against the one you so affectionately call T-Clip, there’s just some things about the kid that concern me. But before I get into that, check out the 10 most similar players to Clippard via First Inning’s FIPro (which uses some fancy sabermetric stuff, which I’m sure some people will appreciate):

Beltran Perez
John Stephens
Jarod Matthews
Derrick Van Dusen
Steven Shell
Kris Honel
Jimmy Gobble
James Tiller
Bobby Keppel

Hmmm, interesting. And just who the hell are those people? Jimmy Gobble is the Royals swingman and is surprisingly good at what he does, but the rest of the lot? All but Tiller were once highly thought of prospects, but now they aren’t even has beens, they’re never wases. They all share one thing in common though: ace stats in the minors, average stuff, failed to reach their ceilings. Okay, so that’s 3 things in common.

EJ’s usually great with facts and such, but he makes a gross error here:

Tyler Clippard does not rely on deception.

Contrare, monfrare. I present to you Tyler Clippard’s delivery:

Update: I can’t get the YouTube embedded video to work, so here’s the link. It’s fixed now. Enjoy the video. -Ben

Can’t see the deception there? Well don’t feel bad, the camera angle isn’t very helpful, plus the video quality isn’t exactly top notch. Instead, take a look at this shot:

No deception huh? He looks like Wile E. Coyote pulling the “Help!” sign out from behind his back! You don’t strike out a batter per inning with 89 mph fastballs and average curves without any deception. Clippard’s got a good amount deception, and it’s certainly helping him out.

Therein lies the problem. Deception only works for a limited amount of time; once hitters see you 3 or 4 times, they know what to look for. Guys relying mostly on deception (and not stuff) don’t last very long, unless you’re talking about a thinking machine like El Duque. Is Clippard going to make the adjustments he needs to when the time comes? The odds are against it, and in a world where people believe that sacrifice bunts are a bad play, it’s simply hypocritical to ignore the odds.

If you’re like me and await Friday not because it’s the end of the week, but because BA’s new podcast comes out, then you’re aware of what John Manuel said is MLB’s defining characteristic: the 162 game season. And when you think about it, it’s completely true. They plan only 140 games in Japan (closest thing to MLB out there), plus the travel is a fraction of what it is in the US. Ditto the minor leagues; while traveling in buses may be uncomfortable, it’s not a cross country flight for a day game after a night game. Players, especially pitchers, are trained to deal with the 162 game grind from the moment it becomes apparent they can play.

That’s a problem for Clippard – in my eyes at least. True he hasn’t missed a start since high school, but at 6’4, 190 lbs, he’s going to wear down at the ML level come mid-to-late August. It’s not just about missing starts either, it’s about being totally ineffective in the starts he does make. You can point to his minor league inning totals all you want (149, 147.1, 166.1 the last 3 years), but big league ball is an entirely different animal.

In my last line of defense, I just like the guys I rated ahead of Clippard better (Hughes, Tabata, Joba, Betances, Sanchez, Kennedy, Gonzalez, Ohlendorf, Duncan, Whelan and Vechionacci). I have a strong tendency to lean towards long term value/potential upside and tools rather than performance, age, etc, and all those guys have better long term value than T-Clip. Yes some of these guys are a ways away and plenty can go wrong, but Clippard is no lock either. He got pummelled in the first half last year, and I’m willing to bet he gets a rough intro to AAA as well.

Look, it’s not that I don’t want Clippard to succeed, I’m just trying to remain as realistic as possible. If he does succeed, I’ll be the first to tip my hat to him. But don’t get me wrong, if he falls on his face, I’ll be the first to say “I told you so.”

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Minor League rosters
A real writer on the Yanks farm system