I had Will Clinard at #19 in my recent 2013 Tigers top 50 prospects list. This is quite a move for a young gentleman that was pitching college baseball in the spring, but that might say just as much about the Tigers system than anything, given that Clinard wasn’t a premium draft pick. Still, he is easily worth a profile, and if nothing else, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are talking about Clinard quite a bit this season.
Without further delay…
As I mentioned, Clinard wasn’t a premium draft pick coming out of college. A Vanderbilt right hander at 6’4″ and 225 lbs, the Tigers drafted Clinard in the 19th round of the 2012 draft. There was some question as to whether he would sign or try and improve his stock, but the Tigers obviously got him in the fold. Clinard began his professional career in short-season Connecticut, quickly proving he belonged higher, posting a 1.38 ERA in 7 games, striking out 19 batters in 13 innings. In West Michigan, he pitched in 14 games for the Whitecaps, posting an ERA of 2.96, striking out 20 batters in 24.1 innings. At 23 years old already, it is likely that Clinard will be pushed in the spring to Lakeland to begin 2013.
Despite starting 2012 as Vanderbilt’s closer, Clinard doesn’t have electric stuff across the board, but does have the ability to throw four pitches.
His four seam fastball typically clocks in the low 90′s, sometimes touching around 94. He doesn’t show great command with the pitch at this point, but should get better with professional instruction.
His best pitch at this point is his cutter. He works his cutter mostly around 88-89 mph, but he does get pretty devastating movement on the pitch. He uses his cutter most effectively when working in on the hands of lefties, inducing them into weak contact.
His third pitch is a slider that at points flashes as average, and could get better as he throws it more. His slider tends to be in the high 70′s to low 80′s, and is more slurvy than sharp.
Clinard also owns a change up as well, but isn’t anything that he can count on at this point.
Clinard is a guy to watch for a reason. Despite being 23 years old already, there isn’t a lot of mileage on his arm. He only pitched 132 innings in his career at Vanderbilt, meaning there is some room to improve on what is a good foundation. Clinard carries a closer like mentality to the mound and isn’t afraid to attack hitters on the inner half of the plate.
I think Clinard is a reliever for me all the way. There were some rumblings when he was drafted that a starter might be the route to go, but given his age and his mentality, I think the Tigers would be best suited to shape him as a late inning guy. This may be a lofty projection, but I could see a David Robertson type as a ceiling for Clinard. He may not put up those kind of sparkling numbers, but the repertoire can be similar, especially if he just scraps the change and focuses on the fastball, cutter, and slider.