(Photo: Brad Mills, USA TODAY Sports)
2020 season age: 22 – Throws: Right- Bats: Right- Contract: Rookie Status
2019 in review: Traded from San Diego to Texas for a Rule 5 catcher (Brett Martin) in winter of 2017, Clase jumped from High-A to the majors in 2019. He pitched 23.1 innings with 21 strikeouts and six walks and a 2.31 ERA. He struck out 39 in 37.2 innings at Double-A and 11 in seven innings at High-A. The Indians acquired him for Corey Kluber.
Beyond the stats: It’s easy to see why the Indians really liked Clase. Immediately what stands out is that he ranks in the 100th percentile for fastball velocity (99.2 average) and 97th percentile in spin (2566). Hitters had just a 85.5 exit velocity against his cutter, his primary pitch and an average launch angle of three. While his strikeout rate (22.3%) seems kind of average for someone who throws 99 and has movement like his cutter and slider, hitters seem to have a hard time making quality contact against it, which is also a valuable skill.
On the mound: Clase has a four seam fastball that he barely used in his MLB debut but heavily relies on his cutter (73.3%) and augments it with a slider (21.2%). The cutter gets 1.7 inches of horizontal drop (10% more than league average) and the slider gets 4.4 inches of horizontal break (68% more than league average) and 36.6 inches of vertical drop (24% more than league average). The slider gets 2615 RPM and with his arm slot and speed, there’s a good chance the spin efficiency helps it play up even more and in theory tunnel well together.
2020 role: Unfortunately Clase is on the shelf until about May or so with a tear in his teres major. The Indians will probably be careful with him even though Mike Clevinger came back quickly last year from the same injury because of Clase’s age and reliever volatility and inexperience. He’s still not that experienced and when he comes back the Indians will probably give him plenty of time to work through things and see where things are once healthy. Maybe sometime by June he’ll finally make his Indians debut in the bullpen. He’d be an ideal setup man in the fireman role because of his high octane stuff and ability to miss bats plus limit quality contact. His role is probably a little more up in the air due to the injury and that inexperience.
Fantasy impact: There’s no reason to draft Clase now, even if you’re in a league that counts holds. But keep an eye on his injury and when he returns. When he’s ready to make his 2020 big league debut, he’s someone who could rack up holds with a decent amount of strikeouts, so in those formats he’s worthy of rostering. He’s someone to keep an eye on if Brad Hand struggles again in the closers role like he did in the second half, but Clase is going to wind up having to earn his high leverage opportunities, so he wouldn’t necessarily get the role when he comes back if Hand is struggling. But he’s worth holds and a future closer type stash.