Jeff Clement has gotten off to a great start with the Indianapolis Indians, batting for a .343/.439/.800 line with five homers in 35 at-bats in his first nine games since coming over in the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell deal. That gives Clement a .292/.372/.531 line in 407 AAA at-bats this season, with 19 homers.
Clement was the top prospect in Seattle in 2006 and 2008, falling to number two on the list in 2007 due to Adam Jones taking over the number one spot (Jones was traded for Erik Bedard following the 2007 season). Clement ranked as the 42nd best prospect in baseball in 2008, but didn’t qualify for the 2009 list due to his major league service time.
With his performance this year, and his hot start in Indianapolis, there is going to be a lot of talk about promoting Clement to the majors once rosters expand on September 1st. That move would be unwise for many reasons, with the most important reason being a huge impact to Clement’s future with the team.
Clement currently has 150 days of major league service time. A year of major league service time is 172 days. As it stands right now, Clement has five years and 22 days of team control left.
If Clement were called up on September 1st, he would spend 34 days in the majors the rest of the season. That would keep him in the Pirates system through the 2014 season.
If the Pirates don’t call up Clement, they retain control through the 2015 season. In order to save the extra year of control, the Pirates would have to call Clement up after September 13th.
The trade off seems well worth it. The biggest thing the Pirates can shoot for this season is the number one draft pick next year, and the ability to draft Bryce Harper. Calling up Clement and burning a year of control in the process would be pointless. I don’t know if the Pirates will be competing in 2015, which is the extra year of control for Clement, but I do know they have no shot this year. I’d rather have Clement for the entire 2015 season, rather than 34 days of a pointless 2009 season.
There are other reasons beyond the arbitration clock to keep Clement in the minors. First of all, Clement is playing first base right now, but he recently converted from catcher. Counting the nine games played with Indianapolis, Clement has 15 games played in his professional career at first base. He’s far from ready to assume the starting role in the majors at first base, with just 15 career games under his belt at the position.
You could make the argument that the 2009 season is hopeless from this point forward, and it wouldn’t hurt Clement to learn on the job in the majors. Aside from foolishly wasting an arbitration year, this also makes no sense from a depth chart standpoint.
At first base in the majors, the Pirates have Garrett Jones and Steve Pearce. Jones has mostly been getting starts in the outfield, but has backed up Pearce at first, which is the Jones’ natural position. On the season, Jones has a .292/.357/.646 line with 12 homers in 130 at-bats. It’s a small sample size, but big enough to keep Jones as a lock in the lineup.
You could move Jones full time to the outfield, which leaves a decision between Steve Pearce and Jeff Clement. Pearce hasn’t been lights out in his time in the majors, with a .256/.320/.410 line in 259 plate appearances, although he’s never really received regular playing time. Since being called up in late July, Pearce has a .267/.377/.467 linein 53 plate appearances, while starting 12 of 16 games in that time span.
So why start Pearce over Clement? Pearce doesn’t have anything to learn in regards to how to play the first base position. He’s ready to start in the majors from a defensive standpoint. From an offensive standpoint, the two players match up well at AAA this year:
Pearce: .286/.373/.502, 13 HR in 273 AB (21.00 AB/HR)
Clement: .292/.372/.531, 19 HR in 407 AB (21.42 AB/HR)
Those stats at least make an argument that Pearce deserves as much of a shot in the majors as Clement. When you factor in that Pearce is better defensively at first base, that gives him the immediate edge. I say keep Clement down long enough to gain an extra year of control, then let the two players battle it out for the starting position next season.
The MVP Tracker
The MVP Tracker is updated through the 8/8 loss. Here are the big impacts for tonight’s loss:
1. Matt Capps: -.478 WPA
2. Jesse Chavez: -.212
3. Jason Jaramillo: -.098
4. Garrett Jones: -.030
5. Ronny Cedeno: -.025
-There’s a new poll to vote in on the right sidebar asking who the Pirates’ best un-signed draft pick is.