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Ernie Clement’s power surge should position him as the Blue Jays’ everyday third baseman to start the season

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Photo credit:Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
19 days ago
With Santiago Espinal’s trade, it appears that the Blue Jays will start the season with Ernie Clement on the 26-man roster – and for good reason.
Prior to joining the Blue Jays organization in 2022, Clement had a totally unremarkable big league career where he slashed .204/.261/.264 with three homers in 312 plate appearances, along with a 14.4 K% and a 5.8 BB%.
In fact, he wasn’t doing much with the bat either in the minor leagues, as he slashed .238/.291/.438 with four homers in 87 plate appearances with the Cleveland Guardians’ Triple-A team in 2022 for an 89 wRC+. When looking at his Fangraphs page, the thing that immediately jumps out is the fact that he only had a wRC+ above 100 (or average) twice at any level from 2017 to 2022.
This happened with Cleveland’s High-A team in 156 plate appearances, as well as their Triple-A team in 2019 where he had just 13 plate appearances. Prior to joining the Blue Jays organization in 2023, Clement had 11 total home runs in professional ball dating from 2017 until 2022, where he totaled 1,652 plate appearances. This is to say that he was a non-factor with the bat.
However, this changed in 2023 with the Blue Jays organization. It started in Triple-A, where he slashed .348/.401/.544 with an 8.1 BB% and a 5 K%, the latter being an insanely low percentage. What’s more interesting though, is the fact that he hit 11 home runs in 320 plate appearances, with the 11th home run being hit in his 271st plate appearances of the season.
On September 1, 2023 and on his 307th plate appearance of the season between the big leagues and the minor leagues, Clement hit his 12th home run of the season. It took him five seasons and 1,652 plate appearances to hit 11 professional home runs, which is just crazy to think about.
It’s not just the bat that has become important, as Clement is incredibly versatile. With the Buffalo Bisons, Clement played 69.1 innings at first base, 41 innings at second base, 283 innings at shortstop, 75.2 innings at third base, eight innings in right field, and 34 innings in left field. While there are no statistics like Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) or Outs Above Average (OAA) in the minor league, Clement made just six errors with five of them coming at shortstop.
There is, however, defensive stats in the big leagues, and they back up what you see with the eye test. Clement mainly played shortstop with the Jays, playing 100 innings at the position and posting a 4 DRS and a 2 OAA at one of the hardest positions in baseball. It’s not a stretch to say with more time  at the position, Clement’s numbers would have been even better.

Could Ernie Clement become the regular third baseman

Sticking with the defensive stats, Clement played just three innings at third base for the Jays in 2023 where he had -1 OAA and 0 DRS. However, he played 201.1 innings with the Cleveland Guardians and Oakland Athletics in 2022, where he had 4 DRS and OAA, which one again proves that he’s a very skilled infielder. His defence may not be on Chapman’s level at third base, but he’s not going to cost the Jays runs.
And then you have how he’s performed with the bat in Spring Training. In 44 plate appearances, Clement is slashing .357/.386/.667 with three home runs and 8 RBI. Moreover, he has a 4.5 BB% and an even more impressive 2.3 K%, which is once again incredibly difficult to achieve.
There’s no telling how the power surge will translate in Major League Baseball. Furthermore, the impressive defensive numbers are encouraging but are also in a small sample size. It’s unknown how those numbers and his defence would hold up after 1000 innings at one position.
Still, Ernie Clement’s surge in power since the start of 2023 has positioned him to be a leading candidate as the everyday third baseman. If he can’t achieve that, there’s still a lot to like as a super utility player.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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