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Clement to Cal League?

Posted by JasonAChurchill on February 23, 2006

The Seattle Mariners have two solid catching prospects in the system, both of whom have their strengths and weaknesses sitting at the opposite end of the spectrum from their counterpart.

Rob Johnson, a right-handed hitting defensive-minded catcher out of the University of Houston, was the M’s fourth rounder in the ‘04 draft. Jeff Clement, a left-handed hitter with a power stroke unmatched in the entire system and perhaps the best hitting catcher in minor league baseball, was the 3rd pick overall in last June’s First Year Players Draft.

Johnson had a fine offensive season in 2005, impressive the organization with his athleticism, game calling, catch-and-throw skills and the overall progress he made in his first full season in pro ball.Clement, the national prep career home run leader and USC’s second all-time leader in long balls, has a ways to go defensively, but has an unrivaled work ethic and is expected to be at least average defensively when all is said and done.

While Clement spent just a month in a professional uniform last summer, Johnson was finishing a strong campaign where the 22-year-old combined to hit .280/.332/.432 with 30 walks and only 45 strikeouts in 375 at-bats.Johnson hit 11 homers and drove in 63, while swiping 12 bases in 15 attempts.

Clement played in 34 games and smacked six homers, all with Wisconsin in the Midwest League, and compiled a .315/.387/.508 line with 21 RBI.

It’s clear that both players are pretty good talents and even though it’s clear that Clement’s power potential sets him apart from the other catchers in the system, Johnson is at least a half year ahead of Clement in his development, particularly while donning the tool of ignorance.

Johnson is a strong defender with a plus throwing arm while Clement is below average in all areas, but is fully expected to easily reach acceptable levels in each category.

Clement’s bat may be less than a year away while his defensive game may be closer to two years from being major league ready.

Johnson’s glove may be ready by mid-2007 while his bat may not be ready until 2008.

So what do the M’s do with their two catchers?

If Clement’s development follows the expected path and timetable, he’ll have to cross paths with Johnson sometime in 2006. If Clement begins his 2006 season with Inland Empire and starts off hot and is making the necessary progress behind the plate, when does he get the 2-hour plan ride to join the San Antonio Missions?

When Clement gets that call, will Rob Johnson be ready for Triple-A Tacoma or will they share time? Splitting the catching duties between the two best catching prospects in the system makes little sense, since it curbs each player’s development.

for those expecting Clement to end the ‘06 season with a cup of coffee in Tacoma and to begin spring training in 2007 with a chance to break camp on the 25-man roster, I have four words for ya: Hold Your Trojan Horses.

The catching position is the one place on the field where minor leaguers have to defend their way to the big leagues. Typically, prospects have to prove their offensive worth, and as soon as they do, they are deemed major league ready.

The Catcher has to prove that he can handle the defensive duties before he is sent to the show. It’s going to take Clement a few years to get that call to the big leagues.

If I was making the decision, Clement would spent the entire year in the Cal League and Johnson would spend the entire season with San Antonio. And if the Missions made the Texas League playoffs and Inland Empire did not, I’d send Clement to San Antonio to split C/DH duties with Johnson.

There’s no reason to rush either player. Let them develop.


Posted in M's Draft, M's Top Prospects, Seattle Mariners | 1 Comment »