Trevor Clifton was drafted straight out of Heritage High School in Tennessee. At the time he was listed at 6’4″ and about 185 lbs. The tall lanky right hander was able to generate 97 mph from the mound! You just can’t teach that kind of power so the Cubs chose him in the 12th round of the 2013 draft. He later signed for a cool $375K to start his pro career.
He spent the rest of 2013 down in Arizona. This is pretty typical of kids drafted out of High School. The get their feet wet, get accustomed to the facilities and learn what it means to be a pro. The Cubs wanted to start teaching the “Cubs Way” of doing things. Trevor seemed really excited to be a Cub.
Next year Clifton was sent to short season Boise. It was a promotion for the youngster and he started 13 games throwing 61 innings. He was 4-2 but was averaging about 8 strikeouts per 9 innings. While the strikeouts were a plus Clifton was also giving up about 4 walks in those same 9 innings. It’s pretty typical of a kid who has always been able to blow away the competition with his fastball. You should see a lot of strikeouts but the command isn’t always as accurate as you would like.
The work done in Boise prompted another promotion and Clifton was assigned to South Bend last year. The workload increased and he pitched 108.2 innings. He made 22 starts that year and recorded a 8-10 record. While most might look at the win/loss record we took note that the strikeout rate increased and the walk rate decreased.
What we really need to keep in mind about these extremely young pitchers is not the stats. We need to focus on the process. Are these kids learning the craft? Everyone in the majors can sit on a fastball. Pitchers need to pitch. Sounds pretty simple but youngsters that have gotten away with throwing fastballs by weaker competition seem to fall in love with that one pitch.
Trevor Clifton has been working as a starter. As such, he needs variety to help keeps batters off balance. Here is a little clip of such an at bat where Clifton uses the curve ball to make a batter look silly: South Bend Aug/2015
The problem comes in with the consistancy. He has all the tools. He throws his fast ball in the 92-94 range and can pump it up to 97 if needed. He has a big curve ball, a cutter and a changeup that has vastly improved. The command is still a work in progress but when his stuff is working he is close to untouchable.
This year Clifton made the jump to high A ball in Myrtle Beach. His last outing was an example of what this kid can do. He threw 6 shutout innings, struck out 10 and walked no one! This is exactly why the Cubs drafted and ponied up $375K for a 12th round pick!
Clifton is now 21 years old and about 2 years younger than the average player at Myrtle Beach. He is now listed at 210 lbs and looks the part of a big league pitcher. He needs to continue to work hard and show he can control all the tools he has. We want to keep a close eye on this kid because we think he has a great shot at helping the Cubs in the next few years.
We feel the Cubs have a lot of young arms that just seem to be a step behind the big name positional players that have made their way to Wrigley. The next wave of talent may be from the pitchers. And the timing couldn’t be better. You may want to keep this in mind when the Cubs have roster spots to fill for pitchers that move on from the Cubs.