The Arizona Diamondbacks do not have a deep or top-heavy farm system, but there are a few players that may not be getting enough respect. The third-round pick in 2015, Taylor Clarke, has flown through the organizations minor league system as he reached Triple-A Reno at the end of last summer.
The 6’4″ right-handed started is ranked as the 3rd highest prospect according to MLB.com because of his solid three-pitch arsenal. His fastball is his highest graded pitch which tops out at 96 mph. Normally sitting in the low 90s, his fastball command is one of his biggest strengths. Clarke struck out 143 batters in junior year of college in just 114.1 innings including a complete game where he sat down 18 batters. The video below shows some of his strikeouts that all come on his fastball.
The rest of his arsenal consists of a slider that has been graded as at least major league average sitting between 80-82 mph. His third pitch is a change-up that the Diamondbacks wanted to and have been developing nicely since his arrival to the organization.
2016 was his first full professional season as he threw 114.1 innings his junior year at the College of Charleston in 2015. Within 10 starts in 2016, he flew through A and Advanced-A ball to get to Double-A Mobile.
After dominating hitters in A Ball, Clarke took a slight step back while letting batters hit .261 against him in Mobile. He only walked 33 batters across all three teams that season though, and he kept his ERA low at 3.31.
Clarke, a flyball pitcher, saw some changes to strikeout numbers in 2017 where he struck out 138 batters in 145 innings. This was a big improvement from 118 strikeouts in 149.1 innings in 2016. His walk rate went up with his strikeouts though as he walked 52 batters in 2017 compared to 33 in 2016.
After spending the majority of the summer with the Jackson General, Clarke was called up to Reno in the Pacific Coast League. The PCL is known to be a hitter-friendly league, and Clarke gave up 8 homers in just 33.2 innings while sporting a 4.81 ERA. His BAA was just .225 though with a good WHIP of 1.25.
Overall, his K/9 rate (8.29 in AAA) was above average, but his BB/9 (3.48 in AAA) fell to below average in 2017. After a full season of just 33 walks in 149.1 innings in 2016 (a BB/9 rate consider “great”), he walked 19 more batters in four fewer innings in 2017.
Is He Ready to Debut in 2018?
With Greinke, Ray, Walker, Corbin, and Godley established as the starting rotation, Clarke will not be making the Opening Day roster for the snakes. The D-Backs have great organizational depth with starting pitchers as Clarke is probably slotted behind Shelby Miller, Anothny Banda, Archie Bradley, and Braden Shipley to make spot starts if there are any injuries.
Although Greinke and Corbin have been mentioned in trade rumors this offseason, I would expect them to be in Sedona red come Opening Day. If there is a big surprise trade, Clarke will be in the discussions as a guy to step in, but he would really have to dominate in spring training.
Clarke will make his debut by 2019 if all goes well and he stays healthy. If he continues the improvement he has shown through all the stages of the minors and dominates Triple-A, Clarke will get a chance to pitch at some point in 2018 for the Diamondbacks though. His control and walk rate at the beginning of the season will be a good indicator of if he will get called up in 2018.