Thursday, January 19, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #23 RHP Garett Claypool

Right-handed pitcher Garett Claypool is a UCLA product that was selected in the 11th round of the 2010 draft by the Phillies. The 6-foot-2-inch 175-pounder broke out, in 2011, with an All-Star campaign for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

Armed with a fastball that ranges from 90-92 MPH, a strong slider which he uses to put hitters away, as well as a curve ball and a change up that are definitely improving, Claypool ranked in the top 10 among South Atlantic League pitchers in several key statistical categories. His ERA (3.47) ranked 8th, and he was tops in strike outs (151). That dominance is even more impressive considering he was 21 K's ahead of the next highest total while only having the 11th highest innings pitched total (137 1/3) in the league.

According to Claypool himself, the key to his success has been getting ahead of opposing batters by targeting both sides of the plate with his fastball. He also utilizes a bit of deception with his front side, as he winds up, which enables him to hide the ball longer.

Some baseball heads describe this hurler, who grew up idolizing pitchers Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, as having a limited ceiling based on scouting reports on his secondary pitches, but Claypool's dominance should not be ignored, even considering that he was 22-years-old last season, facing plenty of younger SAL competition.

In a May start against the Nationals affiliate Hagerstown Suns, Claypool was strong, affirming that he is a formidable young pitcher by shutting down one of baseball's top prospects, Bryce Harper, on strikes, two consecutive times. However, Harper figured out Claypool's approach in those at bats and proved why he is so highly regarded by slugging a solo homerun on the first pitch of his third at bat against the Lakewood ace.

In 2010, his first pro season, Claypool was assigned to the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters and posted a 3-3 record with a 3.18 ERA and 45 strike outs in 34 innings over 12 games (4 starts). From there, Claypool began the 2011 season in the Lakewood bullpen before moving to the rotation after 4 relief outings.

The Woodland Hills, CA resident feels more comfortable as a starter, as the routine of going once every five days appeals to him. However, Claypool is clear when he states that as long as he is getting opportunities to pitch, he is pleased to be on the mound.

The 23-year-old Claypool was originally drafted in the 34th round in 2009 by Oakland, but chose to return to school, with hopes of getting drafted higher the next year. That worked out well.

Very likely to begin his 2012 season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, Claypool could be on the fast track to reach Double A Reading by mid-season. This youngster strikes me as a Mike Stutes type...a guy with a wide repertoire as a starter, who could later reduce his arsenal with a move to the bullpen and contribute in a big way with his most refined offerings. In fact, Stutes skipped Clearwater completely in 2009. Could Claypool do the same this year?
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