By Todd Johnson
At every level of the minor leagues, there is always some sort of rite of passage. Players can take a leap or bound in development to catapult to the next level. Small things that have been worked on in his side sessions begin to manifest themselves in gameplay. For Trevor Clifton, this is the case. His career so far has not been about peaks and valleys, but rather, it has ben a slow burn up to AA. Clifton will be at AA Tennessee to start 2017. The Smokies home stadium is only about 45 minutes from his parent’s house.
For most prospects, AA tends to separate the pretenders from the contenders. It is a place where organizations figure out what prospects have a chance to make it IN the major leagues. For 2017, I like to think that the season will not be Clifton’s crucible. Instead, it could be his launching pad. He will have his good starts, his bad starts, but he hopefully can continue with what began as far back as late July of 2015 when he began to develop consistent outing after consistent outing.
*Fastball 92/95 consistently – commands well down in the zone
*The spiked curve has always been an out/plus pitch. Has very good command now.
*Changeup – I thought this was his best pitch by far in 2016
*Can pitch his way out of trouble. He’s more than a flame thrower.
*Rarely walked anyone in 2016
Areas of Concern
*Getting the leadoff hitter out. He grew by leaps and bounds on this in 2016.
*Getting out of the first inning unscathed. After that, he’s usually fine.
*Holding runners on – He has improved greatly on throwing over to first.
*Overthrowing by pulling across his body sometimes.
*When he relaxes, his arm action is extremely loose and the ball explodes out of his hand and then again about 10 feet from the plate making it very hard to hit
Next Up in 2017
He will be at AA Tennessee.
He turns 22 in May.
What I would like to see
150-160 IP this year should be a good move up the ladder.
Working into the seventh inning most starts
Last year saw Clifton pitch the most innings of his career at 119. I’d like to see that number go up to 150 in 2017. While large strikeout numbers are nice, I would just like to see him be more efficient and get to the seventh inning on a consistent basis.
I think tenacity also sums up the expectations I have. I also think he has to have controlled tenacity. I think if he does what he should, he would be a panther on the mound, just controlling the pace of the game and attacking when he wants with lethal precision. He, above all the other Cubs’ pitching prospects, has the lethality and control needed to make it. Last year saw him make a big jump in his development with his changeup.
It’s no secret that I love to watch him pitch. A lot of that comes from potential. More of it comes from the fact that he works hard to improve. He’s always trying to improve some aspect of his game. If it’s good, he wants it to be great.
The future for him looks bright. He could be an excellent third starter, in time, or he could relieve. You never know a player’s career arc. With two starters in Lackey and Arrieta supposedly coming off the books after 2017, Trevor could be part of a small contingent of arms ready to compete for one of those spots. Sure, the Cubs would like a veteran, but ultimately they want someone who can get the job done.
By this time next year, he should be on the 40 man roster as he will be Rule V eligible. But first…
One level at a time, one level at a time.