CLEVELAND -- This is the era of strikeouts. As power numbers rise across the board for hitters, swing-and-miss rates have also escalated to all-time levels. There is a growing obsession with launch angle, and batters are doing all they can to increasingly drive pitches airborne.Ernie Clement is cut from a
CLEVELAND -- This is the era of strikeouts. As power numbers rise across the board for hitters, swing-and-miss rates have also escalated to all-time levels. There is a growing obsession with launch angle, and batters are doing all they can to increasingly drive pitches airborne.
Ernie Clement is cut from a vintage cloth.
"He's a throwback," said Brian O'Connor, the head baseball coach for University of Virginia.
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In the fourth round of the MLB Draft on Tuesday, the Indians grabbed Clement -- a middle infielder for the Cavaliers -- with the 132nd overall selection. Ranked as the 114th best Draft prospect by MLB.com, Clement features a quick-strike swing that generates a high rate of contact. His calling card is being a nuissance for opposing pitchers, who rarely put him away with a strikeout.
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This past season with Virginia, the 21-year-old Clement, who is viewed as a second baseman by Cleveland, struck out only seven times in 285 plate appearances. Over his three collegiate campaigns, the right-handed hitter struck out 31 times in 841 plate appearances, which equates to a 3.7-percent strikeout rate. Right now in the Majors, the league's 21.6-percent strikeout rate is on target to establish a single-season record for the 10th straight year.
"Those are things that we obviously value and look for," said Brad Grant, the Indians' senior director of amateur scouting. "You don't see it very often, but it's a great, great trait to have."
Clement takes a lot of pride in spoiling a pitcher's best pitch, and fighting his way through an at-bat until he gets something he can handle.
"That's always been the way I played," Clement said on Tuesday. "I didn't strike out much in high school. I do see all these guys striking out a ton and taking a bunch of pitches, and that was just never how I went about the game."
During his career at Virginia, Clement used his aggressive approach to post a .306/.345/.376 slash line under O'Connor. This past season, he hit .315, churned out 80 hits in 58 games, while scoring 56 runs, collecting 34 RBIs and stealing 14 bases. Clement played short this year, but spent time between second and center field in the previous two seasons.
Clement was named the Cape Cod League MVP in 2016 after hitting .353 in 40 games.
"He's tough as nails," O'Connor said. "I talked to a lot of scouts that watched a lot of our games that said they wouldn't be surprised if he's the one who makes the big leagues and stays there the longest. So, I think the year that he had, the summer that he had in the Cape Cod League, he climbed up peoples' boards from that."
The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon ET.
Clement had an inkling that he was on the Indians' radar, given the conversations he had with representatives from the team dating back to last fall. So, when his phone rang a few minutes ahead of being taken in the fourth round, Clement was not surprised that Cleveland planned on picking him.
He told his advisor that he wanted to jump at the chance to join the Indians' system, but kept the news quiet. Clement then waited to watch the reaction of his parents, sister and both grandmothers when his name was called.
"I wanted them to kind of be surprised," Clement said. "We were just so excited. It was probably one of the coolest moments of my entire life. I'm just so, so lucky and so humbled and I'm so glad I got to experience it with them."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.