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

Background + Path to MLB

Emmanuel Clase(pronounced CLAH-say) is a twenty-three-year-old relief pitcher from Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic who plays for the Cleveland Baseball Team. Clase’s path to professional baseball started in 2015 when he signed as an amateur free agent with the San Diego Padres, receiving a 125,000 dollar signing bonus. After three unremarkable years in the Padres farm system, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Brett Nicholas as the Player To Be Named Later(PTBNL) in a very minor deal where the Padres were looking for backup catcher depth.

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 Cleveland Baseball Team during the shortened 2020 season due to a sixty-game suspension for testing positive for banned substances.

Player Profile

Emmanuel Clase is a right-handed relief pitcher who throws from a traditional 3/4ths arm slot. Clase’s prolific and unique arsenal features two pitches, a cutter that he throws more than 70% of the time and a slider that he throws more than 25% of the time. What makes Clase’s pitches so special is that his cutter on average sits 99–100 mph and his slider averages 90 mph and can touch 94. Emmanuel Clase’s slider is faster than some pitchers fastballs, which is absolutely ridiculous.

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.

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

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