The MWAH prospect countdown marches on with a pitcher that has great potential, but only if he can keep his mechanics together and his arm healthy.
Position: Pitcher Highest Level: Low-A
Throws: Right Height: 6'4" Weight: 217 lbs.
Age: 22 Born: 12/21/90
2012 Season Stats
Low-A: 41.0 IP, 1-1, 3.73 ERA, 37 H, 13 BB, 3 HR, 34 SO, 1.02 GO/AO, 3.66 FIP, .286 BABIP
Fastball – B. Clevinger’s fastball was perhaps his most inconsistent pitch in 2012. In one showing earlier in the season, he reportedly hit 94-95 mph with regularity, in another showing, his fastball sat 89-91. I would chalk the later up to injury woes, but there’s a good chance that when healthy, Clevinger can throw in the low-90’s.
Off-speed Pitches – B. Clevinger offers three off-speed pitches. A very good groundball inducing slider with heavy drop, a “plus” change-up that sinks down and in on righties and a “get me over curve” just to show hitters something different. The sudden and rather extreme progression of his change-up last offseason led to the Angels transitioning him to starter rather than keep him in the pen.
Control – B. In the eight starts Clevinger made in 2012, he flashed well above average control of all of his pitches, which bodes well for his future chances as a starter.
Command – B. Part of what makes Clevinger’s off-speed pitches particularly effective is that he can throw them over the plate, which is a rarity among minor leaguers and suggests that Clevinger could potentially climb the minor league ladder rather quickly once he is fully healthy.
Mechanics – D. Clevinger’s mechanics take considerable effort considering he’s a starter. This may or may not have led to the arm issues he experienced in 2012. Clevinger also has a habit of not finishing his full delivery and following through. His three-quarter arm slot does stay consistent across every pitch though.
Performance – B. Clevinger’s performance in the minor leagues so far has been nothing but sterling, indicative of his chances at being a top prospect, if he stays healthy.
Projection – B+. Clevinger ranks considerably higher on other top prospect lists than he does on MWAH because of his upside of being a mid-rotation starter and three quality pitches. He ranks particularly low here because of his injury and the increased probability that the Angels transition him back to relief after he recovers from surgery.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date – 2015/2016.
(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)
Season Summary: By all rights, Clevinger should rank several spots higher in this countdown but his injury issues and possible Tommy John surgery had to be accounted for. It is a particular issue for Clevinger because of his max effort mechanics. As alluded to above, these mechanical issues could well have led to his arm problems, even if they didn't, injury concerns loom quite large with him and could ultimately kill his chances of sticking the rotation.
That is something of a good problem for Clevinger to have though. When he was drafted in 2011, he was considered to primarily be a reliever, but he managed to make some adjustments with his off-season offerings to earn himself an audition as a starting pitcher, an audition that went pretty well up until he got hurt. Clevinger flashed pretty much everything you'd like to see from a rotation prospect as he didn't walk too many people, did a good job of keeping the ball in the park and posted a very nice strikeout rate. To see him do that in his first real run as a starter is very encouraging as he should only get better as he finds some consistency in his fastball and improves on the secondary pitches that largely stayed in his bag when he was relieving.
What to Expect in 2013: The coming year is murky for Clevinger. If he can avoid TJ surgery and get healthy for the start of the season, he could be in line for great things. If not, then it is so long until 2014. Whenever he is able to pitch again, Clevinger's biggest challenge will be showing that he can hold up for a full season in the rotation. Once he clears that hurdle, it wouldn't be too surprising to see Michael climb the ladder quickly because he already has good control and plus change-up. That mix, at a minimum, gives him an excellent shot at becoming a quality big league reliever, but don't expect the Angels to explore that option until he proves that his arm just can't hold up to the rigors of starting. The most telling thing about how much faith the Angels have in Clevinger will be whether or not they push him to High-A Inland Empire to start 2013, or baby him by having him return to Low-A Burlington.