What’s the Difference Between Jeff Clement and Brandon Wood?

For those of you who have asked “where is Jeff Clement” all throughout Spring Training, Jon Paul Morosi has a detailed update.  Clement had a knee injury, which caused him to be removed from the list of non-roster invitees for Spring Training earlier this year, and kept him out of action during Spring Training.  Morosi reports that Clement won’t appear at any level until July, at the earliest, due to surgery on his knee.

The article goes in to more detail, pointing out the great draft class of 2005, showing why you should never draft for need (Seattle picked Clement over Troy Tulowitzki because they needed a catcher), and providing this quote from Clement:

“But as far as being done, or considering myself a bust, no way would I say that. I feel like my career is far from over. There’s still a lot of time. Until that day comes when I have to do something else, I’m going to pour everything I have into becoming a better baseball player.”

That raises an interesting question and comparison.  Let’s take a look at two players:

Player A: .223/.281/.383, 25.93 AB/HR, 363 AB

Player B: .168/.197/.259, 42.18 AB/HR, 464 AB

Neither player looks very appealing, but of the two, it’s clear that Player A has the better numbers.  Player A happens to be Clement, while Player B (as you could probably guess from the title) is Brandon Wood, recently claimed off of waivers from the Los Angeles Angels.

Why didn't Clement get the hype that Wood is currently getting?

There has been a lot of demand for Wood to get a shot at being the everyday shortstop, mostly due to frustrations with Ronny Cedeno.  Meanwhile, there was nothing but outrage in 2010 when Jeff Clement was given a chance to be the everyday first baseman.  Both players are former first round picks, and former top 50 prospects.  They were both acquired by the Pirates after their stock had fallen.  Clement has had the better numbers in fewer plate appearances.  So why is there so much demand for Wood to start when there were so many complaints when Clement was given a chance?

The big reason is probably how they were acquired.  Clement was part of a five player return for fan favorite Jack Wilson, and struggling pitcher Ian Snell.  The Pirates paid the remainder of the 2009 salaries for Wilson and Snell to get a better return in the deal.  Meanwhile, Wood was acquired off of waivers, with the Pirates giving no one up in return.  However, the return and the method that each player was acquired shouldn’t be an issue.  If anything, the fact that Clement was acquired via trade should have given him more support to be a starter.

There’s also the defensive factors.  Clement was drafted as a catcher, but could no longer handle the position due to his knees.  The Pirates moved him to first base, which was the big reason for all of the outrage, as many speculated that the defense would suffer.  My biggest issue with Clement wasn’t the defense, as I never thought it would be a huge adjustment moving from catcher to first (side note: I do find it ironic that defense at first wasn’t as important when they signed Lyle Overbay).  My biggest issue was his hitting, which turned out to be the reason he didn’t last in the lineup last year.

There is also a defensive factor with Wood.  He can play shortstop, but he doesn’t play the position well.  In his limited time in the majors he has a -26.3 UZR/150 at the shortstop position.  He is much better defensively at first or third, although the Pirates have more of a need at shortstop than they do at the corners.  The irony here is that people were concerned over Clement’s defense, without seeing him at first.  Meanwhile, Wood has already displayed poor defense at shortstop, and that is being overlooked in the calls for him to replace Cedeno.

The replacement factor is another issue.  The big reason Wood is getting so much attention is because Pirates fans are fed up with Ronny Cedeno.  However, there was no one at first base when Clement was given the starter role (Garrett Jones was playing in the outfield at the time), so there should have been more demand for him to get a shot, especially since Wood has been worse than Cedeno in every way in his short major league career.

It’s a strange situation with these two players.  Clement was acquired for a higher price, and should have had more demand to start.  He had better numbers at the time, although his numbers weren’t good.  They both had defensive issues, although Clement’s were more in theory, while Wood had already demonstrated poor defensive skills at the desired position.  Finally, Clement was filling an empty spot on the field, while Wood is expected to replace someone who has out performed him so far.  Everything about this comparison suggests that Clement should have received the same hype Wood is getting, or more.

Looking back at the quote from Clement about his career not being over, and looking at this comparison, I’d say Clement has the better shot of being a major league player than Wood.  Clement has displayed the power needed to be a starting first baseman, with a home run every 20.57 at-bats in 2010.  His big drawback is a low average and walks.  He could get by with an average around .200-.230 if he hit for a lot of power and drew a lot of walks (SEE: Carlos Pena).  The power is there, but the walks aren’t.

Looking at Wood, he’s a lot further off.  The average isn’t there, the walks aren’t there, the strikeouts are worse, and the power isn’t there.  The only appeal I see with Wood is the “he used to be a top prospect, and maybe a change of scenery can create a magic spark in his game” factor.  Otherwise there is nothing about his game, offensively or defensively at shortstop, that makes me want to see him in the lineup.

Overall, both players are long shots to revive their careers and live up to their former top prospect rankings.  However, if you ask me which player has a better shot at reviving their career, I’d say Clement.  It’s easy to make that call, just looking at the career numbers, which is why I don’t understand the calls for Brandon Wood to start at shortstop.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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