In the fifth round of this year’s draft, the Cubs selected RHP Bailey Clark from Duke University. Clark, a 6’4” 185 lb. junior did not have the best of seasons this spring. He began the year as a starter and wound up in the bullpen for the Blue Devils. He appeared in 15 games, 5 in relief, with a 5.61 ERA with 64 Ks in 59.1 IP.
“Clark came into the college season with a significant amount of buzz, coming off a strong summer pitching in the Cape Cod League and for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He started the season opener for Duke against preseason Top-10 team California and dazzled, touching 98 mph early and flashing a swing-and-miss breaking ball. But Clark couldn’t continue the magic. His stuff backed up, command eluded him, and after 10 starts, he found himself buried in Duke’s bullpen…”
So, he had talent, lost it, but the Cubs liked the talent he had when he had it. Cue an adjusted $6 Million Man intro…
“Bailey Clark, Pitcher. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology […] Bailey Clark will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.”
It happens all the time. Clubs take a risk on a player in hopes that major league instruction is much better than college coaching. Being a fifth-round pick, the Cubs gambled and so did Clark in signing an above slot rather than going back to college. He was ready to go pro.
So far, things seem to be working out just fine. Because he did not have a lot of innings, he is pitching somewhat longer starts than the normal 2-3 innings for recent college picks.
Clark began his Cubs career with two short outings in Arizona. He was pretty dominant as he should have been. In 5 innings, he struck out 4 and only allowed 3 hits. He got a quick promotion to Eugene.
Clark has since made two starts in Eugene. His first start saw him 2.2 IP with 4 hits and 1 ER. He really only had one bad inning, the third, in which he was pulled after giving up an error, 2 doubles, a single, and a wild pitch. His only saving grace was that he struck out five for the game. His second start was impressive. He made it through four innings, gave up a solo shot to start the fourth, and struck out four. I could handle more outings like that.
The jury is far from out. I liked what I saw when he made his first start at Eugene. His delivery looked smooth. There was some concern that he might be a max effort kind of pitcher. He did not look that at all. His fastball gets up on hitters quickly and his slider has a really nice bite on it. The fastball was sitting 93-95. It’s a good beginning and “it’s a process”, but it really is.
Shortly after his promotion to Eugene, MLB.com placed him on the Cubs Top 30 Prospect List. That’s some high praise for the young man. Still, they did have some concerns:
Scouts have concerns about Clark’s arm action, fueling the thought that he’ll wind up as a reliever in the long run. He could have closer upside if he shows more consistency with his velocity and slider. Chicago will keep him as a starter for now, and he’ll have to improve his changeup to stay in that role.
In the fall of 2015, Baseball previously stated: “He’s a solid athlete on the mound, and showed some ability to command the strike zone with his fastball, but he will have to refine his control going forward.”
That’s it? I think it is. Refine his control. If the Cubs and Clark can get that done, Clark will have an awesome arsenal at his disposal. So far, it seems to be working as a Cub.
No prospect is ever perfect and the Cubs took a gamble on Clark. That gamble seems to be working. However, I think you have to give Clark most of the credit. He is the one that is going to adjust. His willingness to do so and to accept constructive criticism and apply it is what will matter now, and in the future. Maybe someday soon, Clark will be better, stronger, faster .