First Pitch: The Case For Jeff Clement Over Casey McGehee

Jeff Clement hit his fourth homer in his last four games tonight, and is now hitting for a .280/.372/.537 line in 82 at-bats in the month of May, with all five of his 2012 homers coming during the month.

Earlier tonight on Twitter I posted Clement’s major league stats next to the numbers from Casey McGehee over the last two years. Those numbers are as follows.

Jeff Clement Career Major League Stats: .223/.281/.383, 14 HR in 363 AB

Casey McGehee 2011-2012: .217/.279/.331, 13 HR in 644 AB

McGehee was brought in to platoon with Garrett Jones, with the hopes that his 2011 season would be a fluke, and he’d hit more like the 2009-2010 version. So far, that hasn’t happened. Now that Matt Hague is in the majors, McGehee has moved from platoon player to a bench player with a struggling bat.

Clement’s numbers in Triple-A come with a big disclaimer: he’s been at the level for parts of seven seasons, and he’s struggled to do anything more than hit for power in the majors. But I was thinking about something tonight when looking at Clement and McGehee. The idea of adding McGehee and hoping he would bounce back was pretty well received. The idea that Clement could finally realize his potential isn’t as popular. I found that interesting, as McGehee is 29 and Clement is 28.

If McGehee at 29 can get a shot, why not Clement at 28? McGehee is obviously struggling, while Clement is having success. Worst case, Clement hits for his career numbers, which would be an upgrade over McGehee. Best case, he becomes a surprise and provides a bit more of an impact than a bench player can provide.

It might sound like a crazy idea, but let’s consider another idea. There’s been a lot of discussion among Pirates fans about going out and getting a Quad-A player like Clint Robinson. The hope is that a guy like Robinson, putting up strong numbers in Triple-A, can come in and put up a Garrett Jones-2009 type season.

Robinson is 27 years old, one year younger than Clement. He’s got a .325/.428/.515 line in 194 at-bats in his second year in Triple-A, and those numbers come in the very hitter friendly PCL, which should be considered. Robinson doesn’t have any major league time, currently blocked by Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer.

So if Robinson is a good risk to take, why wouldn’t Clement also be a good risk to take? Both seem like Quad-A players. They’re both lottery tickets, with a small chance of winning, and a jackpot if you somehow hit it big. They’ve both shown a trend to hit for power. The only differences are that Clement is a year older, is already in the system, and has struggled in the majors. That last part seems to be the key. Clement has struggled in a limited number of at-bats in the majors, while Robinson hasn’t even had a shot. You would think that the fact that a guy hasn’t cracked the majors yet wouldn’t be a positive — blocked prospect or no blocked prospect — but the great unknown usually tends to be an advantage.

Matt Hague has been hitting since his return, going 5-for-16 with at least one hit in each of his five games. I’m not suggesting replacing him. I’m just pointing out that Casey McGehee is not turning things around. So why not give his bench spot to Clement, who is a year younger, and give Clement the same rebound opportunity? It doesn’t have the “grass is greener” appeal that dealing for a Clint Robinson has, but it’s a similar situation of trying out a Quad-A player who is tearing up Triple-A pitching right now, hoping to luck out and find the next surprise player.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 8-1 to the Reds. Kristy Robinson’s notebook looks at how Charlie Morton isn’t in the same place as last year.

**Prospect Watch: Strong pitching throughout the system, including Gerrit Cole and Rudy Owens.

**Live game reports: Nancy Zinni in Indianapolis.

**Two minor signings: Kenn Kasparek and Nathan Kilcrease. Their player pages: Kasparek, Kilcrease.

**The Pirates called up Jordy Mercer today. They say that Clint Barmes is still the shortstop. I don’t put much stock in that. They’re not going to come out and say that Mercer is getting the job and Barmes is moving to the bench. Mercer will play. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have brought him up.

**The weekly prospects chat transcript.

**Keith Law’s second mock draft has Deven Marrero, but mentions that Lucas Giolito is a possibility.

**Doug Slaten found success in Triple-A after an adjustment. Slaten made his debut with the Pirates tonight, pitching a shutout inning to extend his streak to 25 innings without an earned run. He’s got one more year of control remaining beyond the 2012 season.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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