The Padres have fallen into the habit of drafting strong arms from Pennsylvania high schools. In 1995 they picked up catcher Ben Davis. Two years earlier, San Diego selected Matt Clement, an infielder with a lively arm who someone in the organization envisioned as a pitcher.
Admittedly, Clement’s progress has been slow, as not until his fifth professional season did he make it to Double-A. But consider this: While most pitchers were learning how to throw a change-up or how to set up hitters, Clement was learning how to stand on the pitcher’s mound.
Once he’d mastered the fundamentals, Clement began refining his game. With the movement on his pitches evoking comparisons to to Florida’s Kevin Brown, Clement turned to improving his control and command. His K/BB ratio has gotten better each year, and in 1997 it topped out at better than 3 to 1.
After compiling a sub-2.00 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League, Clement jumped to the Southern League, where, although not as dominant as before, he outpitched more highly regarded prospects such as the Pirates’ Kris Benson and the Cubs’ Kerry Wood.
The Padres have been very patient with Matt Clement. After his emergence in 1997 as one of the brightest pitching prospects in baseball, Clement now finds himself on the fast track to the major leagues. Depending on how he handles the Pacific Coast League and Cashman Field in Las Vegas, he could see time with the parent club in 1998. Only 23 years old, barring injury or complete collapse Clement will have the opportunity to establish himself as a full-time starter in 1999, and if his success thus far is any indication, there’s no reason to believe he’ll relinquish his spot in the rotation any time soon once he arrives.
W- L ERA G SV IP H R ER BB SO 2- 2 3.20 4 0 25.3 17 12 9 16 23
Clement has gotten off to a terrific start at Las Vegas and has pitched remarkably well at home, in the hitters’ paradise known as Cashman Field. His control could use some improvement, but he has been very stingy with the hits — always a good sign.