Earlier this week, the Mariners introduced their 2023 worldwide free agent class with 9 signings from 4 completely different international locations. Much of the eye went to Jeter Martinez, who signed for $600k, and to Felnin Celesten, thought of the second-best prospect in this class by MLB Pipeline. Celesten signed for a team-record $4.7m, which is in line with the going price for elite worldwide amateurs.
But projecting 16-year-olds is usually a idiot’s errand. Not solely are these gamers nonetheless going by means of puberty, they’re adjusting to a brand new nation and receiving world-class instruction for the primary time. Perhaps no person on the Mariners’ 40-man roster higher illustrates this unpredictability than Jonatan Clase.
Clase signed in July of 2018 as a freshly-minted 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. When he joined the group, he was listed at 5’8″ and 150 lbs., however inside slightly over a 12 months of his signing, Kate’s wonderful profile famous that he shortly grew an inch and a half and placed on 20 lbs. of muscle.
Even with that development, nevertheless, Clase’s calling card — his speed — has remained the identical. In 14 rookie ball video games in 2021, Clase one way or the other was an ideal 16/16 at stealing bases, and he added 55 steals in Modesto final 12 months throughout 107 video games. We’ve even seen Clase’s speed in a less-formal setting:
Speed is not sufficient to show a prospect into an MLB-caliber participant, nevertheless, and Clase would not have been added to the 40-man roster this offseason have been it not for 2 different sides of his sport:
- His persistence. Speed issues much more whenever you’re on base extra regularly, and a stroll is that rather more harmful when there is a risk of you stealing second. While Clase did strike out a superb quantity final 12 months (133 in 499 plate appearances), he additionally added 65 walks to place up a decent .267/.374/.463 slash line.
- His energy. Look no additional than this image from just a few years in the past to see how Clase has placed on some severe muscle:
Jonatan Clase on his signing day in July 2018 ➡️ Jonatan Clase in Peoria this fall. The distinction a powerful work ethic mixed with a professional coaching routine could make. pic.twitter.com/kRKEiynGws
— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 27, 2020
After hitting simply 4 homers in 77 mixed video games throughout the Dominican Summer League and rookie ball in 2019 & 2021, Clase discovered some pop in 2022, compiling 13 dingers and a .463 slugging share. Tanquito managed to show some hole pictures into triples, too, with 22 doubles and a formidable 11 triples. For reference, Amed (*40*) led MLB with 9 triples, and the Mariners’ high triples hitter was Adam Frazier (!) with 4.
It was that breakout season that satisfied the Mariners to make use of a 40-man spot to guard Clase from the Rule V draft and hold him as a part of the Mariners’ group for the foreseeable future.
Of course, provided that Clase has only one full season in the minor leagues, it is arduous to think about him making an impression for the Mariners in 2023 outdoors of a possible pinch-runner function down the stretch. And with Julio Rodríguez locked into middle subject for the subsequent examine notes 17 years, Clase will probably must develop as a left fielder if he desires to discover a beginning function with the big-league membership come 2024-2025.
But that is the fantastic thing about baseball, is not it? We discover prospects to dream on and we watch them develop proper in entrance of our eyes. You would possibly must make a journey as much as Everett or right down to Little Rock to look at Clase play this 12 months, positive. But the chance to look at 70-degree speed from up shut — mixed with the power to say “I noticed him when…” — is tough to go up.
So let’s hope for an additional nice MiLB season from our Tanquito, and let’s hope Clase makes a case for a 26-man spot in 2024.