Jeff Clement, We Hardly Knew You

By Blaidd Drwg

With the demotion of Ian Snell last week, it got me thinking about the main piece the Mariners gave up to acquire Snell and Jack Wilson – Jeff Clement. The 2005 MLB draft was one of the best in recent history – 33 out of the 48 players drafted in the first round have seen some major league action and a number of them are going to be superstars for years to come: Tulowitzki, Upton, Zimmerman and Braun. The Mariners had the 3rd pick in the draft in 2005, and with that selection Bill Bavasi took Jeff Clement, a power hitting catcher out of USC who scouting report showed a MLB bat but indictated he would probably not be a catcher at the major league level due to his defense. This was a deep draft – the two players taken ahead of Clement were Justin Upton and Alex Gordon. Zimmerman, Tulo, Braun and a gaggle of other good players were taken after Clement.  So where did the Mariners go wrong in this draft?

This is pure speculation on my part, but I think that Bavasi drafted for need rather than taking the best player available. Here is the rest of the top 10 after Clement:

Player Team Position
Ryan Zimmerman Nationals 3B
Ryan Braun Brewers 3B
Ricky Romero Blue Jays SP
Troy Tulowitzki Rockies SS
Wade Townsend Devil Rays SP
Mike Pelfrey Mets SP
Cameron Maybin Tigers OF

I figure that if the Mariners would not have picked Clement, they would have taken one of the guys on the above list. Zimmerman, Braun and Tulo are all at or just below the superstar level in the majors. Romero and Pelfrey are bordering on being above average starters; Maybin is looking overmatched, but is still young and may turn it around. Townsend blew out his elbow, was terrible in the minors anyway and will probably never pitch in the majors.

Why a catcher? The M’s did not have any real catching prospects in their system in 2005, so it was definitely something they needed. Bavasi was probably thinking that they were set at 3B – they had Adrian Beltre signed to a long term deal. They had their SS of the future in Yuniesky Betancourt. They had Jeremy Reed in the OF, who, at the time, looking like he was going to be an above average player. They didn’t have a 1B prospect, so maybe the thinking was that if Clement flames out as a catcher, they can put him at 1B or DH. I don’t justify it and I think, even without the benefit of hindsight, I would have probably gone with Tulowitzki, just because you can always move a power hitting SS to another position if you need to and you go with the best available player when you have as many holes as the Mariners have.

So, how poorly did this work out for the Mariners? Here is the same list as above with Clement, Upton and Gordon added:

Player Draft Pos WAR Career OPS+/ERA+
Justin Upton 1 6.5 109
Alex Gordon 2 3.8 97
Jeff Clement 3 -1.3 74
Ryan Zimmerman 4 14.2 118
Ryan Braun 5 11.2 142
Ricky Romero 6 5.4 113
Troy Tulowitzki 7 15.5 110
Wade Townsend 8    
Mike Pelfrey 9 4.6 98
Cameron Maybin 10 1.6 80
Andrew McCutchen 11 5.8 127

Townsend is easily the biggest bust of the top 10 – he was drafted in the top 10 in both 2004 (8th by the Orioles) and in 2005 and managed a stellar 5.58 ERA in the minors before blowing out his arm. The irony in this is that the Rays managed to stockpile a stable of young arms in the 2003-2006 drafts, most of which now make up their rotation, so you have to give them a bit of a flyer on this one. Besides Townsend, Clement is clearly the biggest bust of the top 10. He is the only player on the list to be significantly below average from this top 10. I really do think Maybin will eventually turn it around – he was drafted out of HS, he is only 23 and he was really rushed to the majors by the Marlins. Clement is going to be 27 in August and has never shown any ability to hit MLB pitching – heck, he has been so bad that he was demoted to the minors by the PIRATES, one of the worst hitting teams in the majors.

How bad of a pick was Clement overall? Here is the worst of the first round (only guys who have played in the majors):

Player Draft Position Team WAR OPS+/ERA+ Current Team
Jeff Clement 3 Mariners -1.3 74 Indianapolis (AAA)
Trevor Crowe 14 Indians -0.5 75 Indians
Cesar Carrillo 18 Padres -1.1 29 Portland (AAA)
Craig Hansen 26 Red Sox -2.2 73 Out of Baseball
Ryan Tucker 34 Marlins -1.3 53 New Orleans (AAA)
Trevor Bell 37 Angels -1.5 55 Angels
Luke Hochevar 40* Dodgers -0.8 77 Royals
Garrett Olson 48 Orioles -2.4 69 Mariners

Note: Hochevar did not sign with the Dodgers and was the #1 overall pick in 2006 by the Royals

Not the worst WAR of the group, but considering that the top 10 average WAR is somewhere north of 5, and he is the 3rd overall pick, I will say his pick was a disaster. You can make the argument that he at least made the majors, 15 of the first rounders from that draft did not, although about 5 of those 15 were drafted out of high school, are 23 years old and still have a pretty good shot at making the majors in some capacity. Also, all of the players on this list, except for Crowe and Clement, are pitchers.

I do think it is funny that Zduriencik traded Clement, who is probably the biggest bust of the hitters in the 1st round of the 2005 draft and worked to get Garrett Olson who has been one of the worst pitchers to come out of the 2005 first round.

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

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