Monday, January 7, 2008

Clement vs. Johnson vs. Moore

From from an anonymous reader in the Wake Up Call: Ian Snell, Edwin Jackson comment section:

On a side note I liked the piece you did on jones vs. Balentien, and would like to see one on Clement vs. Rob johnson vs. Adam Moore. Just an idea, thanks for all the great posts.

Ask and you shall receive.

Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson and Adam Moore are the top three catching prospects in the Mariners organization, but not necessarily in that order. You all know Clement and have heard of Johnson, but Moore may be a bit of a mystery to you. Hopefully this will have you well acquainted with all three.

The golden boy of the trio, Jeff Clement was taken with the third overall pick in the 2005 draft ahead of Troy Tulowitski, Ryan Zimmerman, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Braun. If not from the extensive coverage directed towards him following the draft, you may know Clement by his memorable home runs during his September callup last season, or the reoccurring mention of his name in trade rumors this offseason.

Clement was an offense first catcher when we drafted him, and he still is today. My jaw dropped the first time I ever watched him hit, because his left handed swing seemed so perfect to me; a natural uppercut that is balanced, quick and powerful. His strong wrists bring the bat through the zone as fast as anyone, causing the ball to explode off his bat. Clement possesses the swing of an ideal power hitter, crushing the ball without over exerting himself.

Besides a balanced swing with robotic consistency, Clement brings more to the table offensively. Early on there were concerns that he had trouble with the outside pitch, but like most other minor leaguers Clement has worked on going the other way and has been able to do it with power. Though he's not a high strikeout guy the way Adam Jones is, he continues to cut down on the whiffs and has been drawing more walks.

Offense first, yes, but Clement is no slouch defensively. Everyone seems to think that Clement would be better off as a DH or first baseman, for different reasons. The only reason Clement should be moved from catcher is to prolong his career the way Craig Biggio did years ago. A common practice in today's game, Cleveland's Victor Martinez is in the process now. Many have speculated a position change for Clement for this reason, but readers misconstrue the reasoning and believe that he is an incapable catcher. Clement is certainly more valuable as a catcher, as you'll be hard pressed to find a backstop with his upside, especially from the left side of the plate. I detailed this in post titled Jones/Clement Value back in November.

He's no Pudge, but he is an adequate defender. There have been concerns about his game-calling and receiving abilities, but he has grow by leaps and bounds defensively since being drafted, a process interrupted by injuries and slowed by platooning. More time in AAA would serve him well, but his bat is major league ready so he may have to learn on the fly. Dan Wilson and Kenji Johjima have spoiled Mariners fans with superb defense, making an average catcher like Clement seem bad. I believe he should take up first base at some point in his career, but there shouldn't be any rush. He has healthy knees and is just 24 years old.

Rob Johnson is about the opposite of Jeff Clement. The two have split time in AAA between catcher and DH, showing off different skill sets. If the two could be melded into one, you would have the perfect catching specimen. Johnson has less offense, more defense and more speed than his power hitting teammate.

Tacoma's team captain last year, Johnson can call a good game, block tough pitches and is nimble behind the plate. He was drafted as a defensive catcher with some offensive upside, but he has yet to break out as a hitter. He still has the makings of a starting catcher, but will have to compete for every job he gets in the majors. Right now he projects to be an average major league hitter, hitting in the bottom third of the order. The power could still come, but for now he is predominately a singles hitter, muscling out the occasional home run while hitting few doubles.

It's always nice to get 5-10 stolen bases out of your catcher. Speed in a backstop is a rare quality, and I'm sure it will only help Johnson secure major league jobs in the future.

Johnson, also 24 years of age, may not see regular playing time with the Mariners under their current plan. He has been brought up in trade talks this offseason, as the front office knows they have decent depth at the position. If Seattle chooses not to re-sign Kenji Johjima and Jeff Clement is traded or moved to first base, however, Johnson could stumble upon a starting role. In this situation, I would only expect him to be in Seattle's plans long enough to allow Adam Moore to develop.

Adam Moore, Seattle's second best catching prospect, was drafted in 2006 and is 23 years old. Fairly new to the organization and unknown to most Mariners fans, he projects to be slightly above average defensively and slightly more above average offensively, but doesn't stand out on either side of the ball the way Johnson and Clement do.

Taking a quick look at the stat sheet, it is easy to be impressed by Moore's 2007 numbers. He hit .307 with 22 home runs and 102 RBIs in 433 at bats for High Desert. Some great stats, but keep in mind that he was playing his home games in the most hitter friendly ballpark of the very offensive California League. I've seen him compared to Michael Barrett offensively, and we should be able to better tell where he stands after next season.

I don't know a ton about him defensively. I know he calls a good game, is popular among the pitchers and that he has a decent arm, projecting right in the middle of Clement and Johnson.

A history of knee injuries could cause Moore to eventually abandon the position, but the jury is still out. He is apparently capable at both third and first, but would prefer to remain behind the plate.

MLB offensive expectations (once established): Jeff Clement - A 2002 Mike Piazza (33 HR - .280/.359/.544) or 1977 Johnny Bench (31 HR - .275/.348/.540) at his best, while a 2004 Victor Martinez (23 HR - .283/.359/.492) with a couple more home runs would be nice as well. Many have speculated Clement could hit 35 home runs at some point, especially if he is moved to first base. Expect a 1999 Jason Varitek season if he doesn't live up to his potential (20 HR - .269/.330/.482), which is still above average for a catcher. This guy is going to be a stud offensively. He should have Jason Varitek caliber defense if he remains at catcher.

Adam Moore - A 2004 Ramon Hernandez (18 HR - .276/.341/.477) or a 2005 Michael Barrett (16 HR - .276/.345/.479). That would make him a very solid major league catcher, though not on the same level as Clement. 20 home runs may be too much to ask from him. He has a nice looking swing, but it doesn't seem to generate a lot of power.

Rob Johnson - A 1999 Dan Wilson (7 HR - .266/.315/.382) or 2007 Yorvit Torrealba (8 HR - .255/.323/.376). He may be able to hit around .270 or so, but I wouldn't expect a ton out of Johnson. His real value is as a defender.

My ideal scenario: I would love to see Clement catch and work on his infield skills, shifting to first base once Moore is ready. Johnson could be the backup, but there is a good shot he is traded or let go if there is no spot for him.

A crazy idea: Obviously it is doubtful, but the Mariners could end up with all three of these guys in the same starting lineup, let alone on the same team. Clement and Moore could play the corners or DH, while Johnson is the starting catcher. Either Clement or Moore could be the backup catcher, preserving their value as a backstop. If Johnson's bat develops, he could be rested at DH. Don't hold your breath, though. [Je-Cle Ro-Joh Ad-Moo]

There you go, Mr. Anonymous Commenter. I hope that is what you were looking for.

View other Bleeding Blue and Teal posts related to Jeff Clement


Anonymous said...

"Mr. Anonymous", I like that, sounds like a bad ass wrestling name. Anyway, another great post.

I also tend to think that Johnson would be a great back up, but you never know he could start some day. I like your dream scenerio of having clement play first when moore is ready, but wouldn't mind seeing him this year. The M's desperately need a big bat and he could be their man.

Do you think the M's could or would get rid of Richie some how, to start Clement?

Also where do you see moore at next year, 2A or high one A?

Thanks for the run down.

Anonymous said...

The Mariners would have loved to move Sexson during the winter meetings, but there were no realistic takers. Clement isn't capable at first base just yet anyway, and if he's going to get 400+ ABs next year it will be between DH and catcher.

I was going to mention where I thought Moore would end up next season, but I guess that slipped through the cracks. I would think AA is the next stop for him, but he could skip it and move to AAA the way Johnson did, but only if Clement makes the big club. There is no rush for Moore, so I think he'd benefit from AA at this point. He has done all he can do in High Desert.

Anonymous said...

On the surface the catcher’s analysis appears logical but there are a couple of important factors missing. Johnson has made great strides in the very short time he has played, there is nothing to indicate that he will not continue to develop as a hitter while his defense and game calling skills will also continue to advance as well. Remember he has only played for 6 years, including college ball. He obviously is well respected by teammates and pitchers or he would not have been named captain with such short experience. His determination and leadership is well known amongst those close to him. He is clearly not a player that can be judge on the surface or strictly by stats. Johnson promises to be the next Varitek given time. A Johnson trade could be looked back on as a huge mistake that nobody even knew they were making.

Anonymous said...

I just don't know if Johnson will get out behind Clement and now Moore's shadow. If he does, he better do it this year

Anonymous said...

He might not get out of the salary shadow of Clement and the desire for the M's to get their money spent. From what I hear Johnson will be a starting catcher somewhere soon and not only a starter but a a team leader like Varitek.

Anonymous said...

one thing that I failed to mention was Clement's number one quality.. leadership. Clement has also been compared to Varitek and was the heart and soul of his USC team. He is a great motivator and presence.

Anonymous said...

Don't get my message wrong. I like Clement, love his bat and don't want to knock him at all. I just think the M's have a group of good young catchers and eventually I think Johnson will prove to be a really good one. I am a fan of them both and hope they get the chance to play together for the M's. If we lose Johnson we might be losing a future star.