We may need to update our list in the near future, however, if Mariners’ farmhand Jeff Clement can’t get his act together.
The supposed “catcher of the future” has been less than spectacular since becoming the third overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft. Taken just after Kansas City’s Alex Gordon and just before Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman, Clement has been one of the duds of an otherwise loaded draft class from that year.
Of the first ten selections of that ’05 draft, only two of the draftees are not currently on big league rosters: oft-injured pitcher Wade Townsend (Tampa Bay, eighth overall pick), and Clement.
Have a look at some of the first-round names that were taken after Clement’s selection at No. 3:
No. 4 Ryan Zimmerman, Washington
No. 5 Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
No. 7 Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado
No. 10 Cameron Maybin, Detroit
No. 12 Jay Bruce, Cincinnati
No. 23 Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston
No. 25 Matt Garza, Minnesota
Just to name a few. Instead of taking one of these gems, the Mariners committed the ultimate sin, drafting for need in the first round, rather than going for the best available player. Foolishly enough, they would then address their need for a backstop in the ’05-’06 offseason by signing Kenji Johjima, making Clement’s selection all but irrelevant.
Since that fateful day in June when Clement first became a Mariner, his path to the bigs has been impeded by Johjima, fellow minor leaguer (until this year) Rob Johnson, and his own deficiencies. Clement has never established himself as a solid defensive catcher, and in the past two years has compounded his poor fielding with inconsistent hitting.
Though he possesses prodigious power, Clement has not shown that he can hit for average, nor has he displayed any type of discipline at the plate. And, with Johnson’s rise to prominence in the Mariners system, Clement will likely never get a fair look at catcher again. If he intends to make it in the Mariners’ organization, he will need to do it with his bat.
Of course, Clement is still just 25 years of age, so he has some time. But draft picks tend to lose their prospect status around age 26 or 27, so he needs to start producing now, or forget about playing baseball at the highest level.