The Seattle Mariners selected RHP Chris Clarke away from the Chicago Cubs in the Rule-5 Draft on Wednesday afternoon. By sending the Cubs $100k, the 6’7 24-year-old immediately is added to Seattle’s 40-man roster and must remain on their active 26-man roster and be active for a minimum of 90 days (e.g. not “hidden” on the injured list) to be retained, or else Seattle must offer him directly back to the Cubs before placing him on waivers.
The towering Clarke was a standout closer at the University of Southern California, earning him selection in the 4th round of the 2019 draft at 132nd overall. He pumps a fastball in the mid-90s with significant sink on an easy delivery that pairs with a powerful curveball. Both pitches bear down heavily, which accounts for his dramatic 58% groundball rate. Clarke has a few other pitches in his mix, developing both a slider and a changeup, but it’s likely his role will be that of a groundball specialist akin to former Rule-5 pick Brandon Brennan.
That’s a role Seattle largely was lacking in 2022, putting them into heavy reliance on their bullpen solving every issue with strikeouts. Fortunately, of course, Los Bomberos did just that quite often, but a more wide-ranging toolkit would be a clear positive for the M’s. Clarke is not unthinkable to develop into a starter ultimately, however for the M’s to retain him on their roster for 2022, he’ll likely be best suited in the pen.
As may be no surprise, Clarke’s command is a standout trait, something Seattle tends to prize. His delivery is almost charmingly low effort, and it is no doubt appealing for the M’s that Clarke is already utilizing his height and extension to best maximize his tools by getting hitters to ground themselves into futility. His stuff can still be hittable, particularly when left up, but it’s reasonable to think his stuff will tick up in shorter outings. In 96.2 innings across 17 starts (20 appearances) with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies, Clarke struck out 87 to just 20 walks.