Black MLB Players You Need To Know About #25: Emmanuel Clase

This relief pitcher has stuff you’d see in a sports anime! That is the only way I can describe what Emmanuel Clase throws. He is already statistically among the best relievers in baseball, and the 23-year-old is only scratching the surface.

Background + Path to MLB

After joining the Rangers organization, Clase became a bit of a late bloomer as the velocity on his fastball began to increase after he became a full-time relief pitcher. In 22 appearances at Short-Season A ball(A-), he had a 0.64 ERA with 12 saves during the 2018 MiLB season. In 2019, Clase’s stock skyrocketed as he jumped from High-A(A+) all the way to the big leagues, outright skipping Triple-A(AAA). Clase’s development hinged around another velocity jump, as he went from sitting in the mid-90s to regularly sitting in the high 90s and frequently reaching 100 mph. In 60 appearances between High-A, Double-A, and MLB in 2019, Clase put up a 2.56 ERA.

After the 2019 season, Clase was seen as the best relief prospect in baseball and was even viewed as a top 100 prospect by certain organizations. One of these organizations was the Cleveland Baseball Team, which made Clase the centerpiece in a trade that sent him to Cleveland in exchange for two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Clase did not make an appearance for the Guardians during the shortened 2020 season due to a sixty-game suspension for testing positive for banned substances.

Clase made 71 appearances for the Guardians during the 2021 MLB season, having a historic rookie season for a reliever and showing everyone why Cleveland’s front office thinks so highly of him. He put up a 1.29 ERA in 69.2 innings, striking out 74(9.56 K/9) and walking 16(2.07 BB/9) in the process. He was consistently used in high leverage situations, as Baseball Reference’s various leverage indexes ranked Clase at the top for relief pitchers in addition to traditional stats.

Player Profile

What makes Clase even more intriguing is the fact that he can limit walks and control his pitches very well for someone who throws as hard as he does. He has frequently shown an ability to move his cutter to both edges of the strike zone, and tunnel his slider effectively as well. The overlay embedded below shows what I am referencing. The extremely high spin rates on Clase’s cutter and slider make him even more difficult to face because hitters cannot discern whether he’s throwing his cutter or slider by seeing how the ball is spinning.

Emmanuel Clase is one of the most unique pitchers in the history of baseball, with a true cutter that frequently touches triple digits is the first of its kind. Combine this with a slider with an above-average movement profile and the ability to limit walks, and the tools Emmanuel Clase possesses are generational.

Emmanuel Clase is able to get outs by inducing weak contact in the form of groundballs and strikeouts with his repertoire. The combination of velocity and movement makes it difficult for hitters to square up Clase’s pitches, and even when they do somehow make contact most of the time it will still lead to an out.

Emmanuel Clase has a very tangible chance to be a generational reliever, as he possesses all the traits needed to reach the rare feat. He has the dominant primary pitch that is one of a kind in its own right and the complimentary secondary pitch that has a chance to be special as well. He is very young, as he will be twenty-four in March 2022. He has already shown the ability to outright dominate MLB hitters by inducing swings and misses or getting groundouts. He has poise for a young reliever, understands his game, and seems to know what the hitter wants to do as well.

https://www.fangraphs.com/players/emmanuel-clase/21032/stats?position=P

I use this blog to cover Black baseball players from all over the African diaspora in MiLB & MLB. I do commentary, analysis, & interviews.