Believe it or not, the off-season is one of the most enjoyable times for a baseball fan. Through a MLB-less winter, we can at least look forward to free agency, trades, and other transactions between seasons. One of my favorite things is learning about all the prospects and how much closer they are to the majors. This off-season, I figured that I'd scout some of the Yankees minor league talent and gather all that I could from watching all the youtube videos and other scouting material on these prospects. To start I wanted to look at the Yankees' third pick in the 1st round of the draft of 2013, Ian Clarkin. He went 33rd overall, which was the compensation pick the Yankees received for Rafael Soriano. Thank you Washington.
Prospect Profile: Ian Clarkin
Height and Weight: 6-2, 190 lbs.
Hometown: San Diego, CA
High School: Madison HS
Clarkin stood out among the other pitchers in the June draft due to already owning three well-developed pitchers. Clarkin has a fastball, curveball and a changeup. His fastball has four-seam movement while sitting around 90-92 mph. However, I have read that it touched 94 in the past, and Perfect Game has him up to 93 mph. It's possible he added an extra mph during High School ball or a showcase. Clarkin's curveball is his most interesting pitch to me. It's been clocked in the 70's and has 12-6-bite potential. It's a really impressive pitch that he often uses to freeze hitters or get them to swing and miss. Everything I read on Clarkin's changeup points to it being an average pitch at the moment. It should project as a solid third pitch as he develops through the Yankees' farm system. With two possible plus-pitches and a projectable changeup, there's not much more you could want from such a young left-handed pitching prospect.
A red flag for Clarkin is his control. His high leg kick makes it harder for batters to time his delivery, but that can also influence his own timing and thus weaken his pitch control. If he can find a better way to repeat his delivery, Clarkin's control issue should improve. Other than that, I'm a fan of his mechanics. I think left handed pitchers who are deceptive are effective. Batters can't hit the ball if they can't pick it up.
One of the more interesting things I've read about Clarkin was a comparison to Clayton Kershaw. Both Kershaw and Clarkin have similar deceptive deliveries in that they keep both hands elevated above their heads as they lift their stride leg simultaneously.
While the arms are similar, the legs are a bit different. As you see above, Kershaw's knee doesn't touch his chest like Clarkin's does. If Clarkin can emulate Kershaw a bit more with a less dramatic leg lift in the balance position, he may gain more control by improving his momentum.
Another Kershaw-esque technique about Clarkin is his consistent release points, even on different pitches. Kershaw is a difficult pitcher to pickup because he throws his fastball the same way he throws his curveball. Clarkin also does a brilliant job of repeating his release points from fastball to curveball.
The arm slots and release points of the pitches look very similar here. The only difference I can see is that on his breaking ball, Clarkin uses his body to help get the spin on the ball. You can see in the second screenshot how he's bent closer to the ground than he is in the first screenshot when he's throwing a fastball.
Out side of technique, it's difficult to compare Clarkin to Kershaw, those expectations are far too high. I do see Clarkin owning top of the rotation potential, and perhaps most likely a competitive number two pitcher.
I like what the Yankees have here despite his poor debut in the Rookie Gulf Coast League where he gave up six runs on five hits in five innings. Yet, the Yankees should be happy to have Clarkin who was the 17th overall prospect ranked according to Baseball America. To nab him with the 33rd overall selection was a steal. He's certainly a player to closely follow this season, wherever he ends up playing.
Just for fun, estimated time of arrival: 2017.