Cleveland Indians reliever Emmanuel Clase making case for Rookie of the Year
On December 15, 2019 the Cleveland Indians sent Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers for a relief pitcher prospect named Emmanuel Clase. For Clase, it was the second time within two seasons he was traded after being sent from San Diego to Texas in 2018 as a player to be named later. Normally a prospect being dealt twice early in their career is a red flag, but for Clase he was just getting to the right place.
Unfortunately for Clase, his move to Cleveland was welcomed with a suspension that spanned the entirety of the 2020 season. While it took a while for Clase to have his chance in Cleveland, he has made the most of his opportunity.
After tossing just 23.1 innings for Texas in 2019, Clase’s rookie status is still well intact and he has placed his name in the conversation for American League Rookie of the Year with a strong 2021 campaign.
On the bump for the Tribe, Clase has totaled 30.2 innings over 32 games thus far. Over that span, he has tallied 11 saves for the club while being part of the closer by committee in Cleveland. Closer by committee has a negative connotation sometimes and what the Cleveland Indians have put together to close out games has been nothing short of impressive with multiple closer-caliber arms.
In addition to be able to lock down the late innings, Clase has managed to strikeout 33 batters in less than 31 innings while also allowing just three runs on the season for a 0.88 ERA. That includes 15 scoreless appearances to begin the season. Since he allowed a pair of runs on May 7, he’s allowed a run in just two appearances.
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On top of having a strong stat line, the 23-year old Clase has also become known for his flame-throwing cannon of an arm, being one of the most consistent triple-digit pitchers in baseball. Having only three pitches, a four-seam, cutter and slider, Clase routinely registers 100+ miles per hour.
In baseball, there’s only three pitches that have an average speed of 100 mph or more this season among pitchers who have thrown 50 or more balls. Those three are St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hicks’ four-seam fastball at 100.5 mph, Clase’s four-seam at 100.4 mph and Clase’s cutter at an even 100. Yes, Clase has two of the three fastest pitches in baseball on average.
What is even more impressive about Clase’s 100 mph cutter is that the next fastest cutter on average barely tops 95 mph and there’s only two pitchers in the game that can do that. As for Clase’s slider, it clocks in at an average of 91.1 mph, which is the fourth best mark in the game behind only Edwin Diaz, Zach Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.
While Clase has had an impressive season, he’s not the only rookie in the American League that has put together a strong campaign. In fact in Baseball America’s latest update, they listed Clase has a “in the mix” player behind the three front runners.
The top player on the list was Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia. At 28 years old, it took Garcia a bit longer to catch on. Now, he’s slashing .272/.303/.543 with seven doubles, an incredible 20 home runs and 52 RBI in addition to seven stolen bases. A well-rounded game has proven to be his best attribute in the case for Rookie of the Year in the American League.
Next up on the list was Yermin Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox, also 28-years old. While Mercedes has been strong at the plate with 34 RBI on eight doubles and seven home runs, he’s only played a total of six innings in the field this year after serving mainly as a designated hitter.
The last of the trio ahead of Clase is right-handed pitcher Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros. A 24-year old starting pitcher, Garcia has put up a 6-4 record over 76.1 innings for Houston. He’s been able to maintain a 2.83 ERA while striking out 85 batters to average 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
While those three players have had strong seasons, they still don’t seem to be better than what Clase has done. Allowing just three runs in high-pressure, clutch situations is an amazing feat for the best relievers in the game, let alone a 23-year old rookie. Those stats combined with his insane speed makes the case clear that he’s the best of the bunch among the game’s newest players.
The knock against him is surely his role as a closer by committee, however, you shouldn’t knock him for pitching in a great bullpen. Whether he’s the full-time closer or just the closer on some nights, he’s still putting together the best season among all rookies in the American League.