Way back in the vaunted 2011 MLB Draft, the Angels an unheralded pick in the fourth round. They gave the player a $250,000 signing bonus to forego the rest of his eligibility at Seminole Community College in Florida.
After pitching to a mediocre 4.29 ERA, he was shipped off to Cleveland in August 2014 for someone called Vinnie Pestano.
That pitcher is Mike Clevinger, who might be one of the most underrated starting pitchers in baseball. And the Dodgers are reportedly interested in acquiring his services. After missing out on Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and such, acquiring a top-level starting pitcher is going to have to come via the trade market.
Corey Kluber was just sent to the Rangers on Sunday for an uninspiring return, and that could mean it’s open season on Cleveland’s roster (hi, Francisco Lindor).
But why should the Dodgers want someone like Clevinger? The short answer is, he’s really, really good. Let’s dive into the reasons.
Clevinger didn’t have the stuff he has now when he was drafted, otherwise he’d have gone higher. His fastball velocity jumped by 2 MPH from 2018 to 2019 and averaged 95.5 MPH. The velocity on his other pitches was also up. He also has three above-average or better offspeed offerings, with his slider being the best of the lot. He also has a curveball and changeup. His command has also taken a step forward which, combined with the uptick in stuff, has made Clevinger one of the game’s best.
Now, let’s check in with StatCast and ...
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Young and Cost-controlled
This is one of the biggest reasons Clevinger is super valuable. Not only is he good at throwing the baseball, the fact that he’s only 28 years old and has three years of team control left. For a team that doesn’t have a Clevinger-level pitcher coming up through the system, pairing he and Walker Buehler atop the rotation for at least the next three seasons could be quite beneficial to the Dodgers and their chances in the postseason.
Recent Injury History
Despite making just 21 starts last season and topping 200 innings just once, Clevinger doesn’t have much of an injury history. He had Tommy John surgery all the way back in 2012 and has come back even better than he was before. Last season, he missed time due to an upper back strain and an ankle sprain. On the scale of pitcher injuries, those are pretty far down the list. And with the way the Dodgers manage their pitchers’ workload, if anything were to concern them, they would know best how to handle it.
A player he gets comped to — Jacob deGrom — had a similar path to the majors, Tommy John included. I’m not saying he’s going to become the next deGrom, but the best for Clevinger could be yet to come. Some of his similarity scores, according to Baseball Reference, include (in order) Luis Severino, Blake Snell and Mark Prior, so take that for what it’s worth.
There’s no mistake that the Dodgers are looking to add to the starting rotation. They’re probably not bringing Hyun-Jin Ryu back, Rich Hill won’t be back until midseason (if he even re-signs) and as it stands right now, Kenta Maeda is the Dodgers’ No. 3 starter. Without an impact free agent remaining and Noah Syndergaard probably not being dealt, it’d be hard for the Dodgers to find a better potential fit than Clevinger — should he actually be available.
I’m not sure Cleveland moves Clevinger on his own, especially after trading Corey Kluber on Sunday, but if they could make some kind of blockbuster deal with Lindor involved to land both Gavin Lux and Dustin May, they’d be hard-pressed to find a better package of impact prospects.
Clevinger would be a fantastic fit for the Dodgers, and you should want them to trade for him.