2021 season age: 23
Contract: Pre-arb 1
Height: 6’2; Weight: 206
2020 stats: Suspended/PEDs
2020 in review: Clase came to Cleveland in the trade that sent Corey Kluber to Texas in the 2019/2020 offseason. He came to camp after skipping Triple-A in 2019 and pitching in the majors for Texas. He suffered a teres major strain before his positive PED test in Spring Training 2020. The COVID shutdown would have given Clase time to get healthy and pitch in July fully healthy with Cleveland, but the PED suspension ended that. He was technically suspended 81 games but MLB amended it to serving the full year in the abbreviated 2020 season.
On the mound: What got Clase to the majors in just a few short years were his high-velocity and three-pitch mix. He relied on his cutter 73% of the time in 2019, and at 99mph, why not? Hitters managed a .239/.429 SLG against it in 2019 but it had a whiff rate of 25%. Hitters might have had a little BABIP luck against Clase, holding hitters to under 85 mph of average exit velocity and just a Launch Angle of 3 (that means he kept the ball on the ground). Clase went to his slider 23% of the time and hitters had just a .231/.308 SLG against him. His slider can reach 90mph. Clase also has a traditional four-seamer that he threw just 5.5% of the time (99mph). Cleveland might opt to get him to rely on the slider more and take some cutter usage away as it develops
Beyond the stats: Despite throwing over 100 and sitting in the 90s-upper 90s, Clase doesn’t boast big strikeout numbers for someone with a power arsenal. Instead, it all suppresses contact quality and authority. A 22-25% strikeout rate and a walk rate between 5% and 6% are pretty good, but not the bat missing level you’d expect. Both the slider and cutter keep the ball in the yard by inducing low average launch angles (below 5).
2021 role: It’s doubtful Clase will have enough experience and trust to be thrown into the closer’s role right out of spring training. Cleveland may opt to use him in any situation between the sixth and ninth innings. While roles haven’t really been defined yet, there’s little doubt Clase will be a key piece of Cleveland’s young bullpen.
Fantasy impact: He might get some saves, but early on it looks like Cleveland wants to explore more options at that role. Clase strikes out just about a batter an inning but doesn’t allow a ton of hits. He should be able to give you good rate stats, some strikeouts, and a combination of saves and holds. His fantasy value is determined if your league counts holds and saves, along with strikeouts. Still, he might have some closer duties so a late stash might be worth it with your last two roster spots.