Ernie Clement’s strong bid to make Blue Jays’ roster hasn’t gone unnoticed

Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
1 month ago
Ernie Clement appears to be on track to break camp in the major leagues this season – all that remains is whether that’ll be with the Toronto Blue Jays or another franchise.
The 27-year-old infielder, who’s out of options, has garnered plenty of praise throughout the organization for his impressive performance this spring, where he’s gone 5-for-13 (.385 AVG) with a triple and one RBI across five exhibition contests. He’s yet to strike out thus far while earning a walk and swiping a base.
Clement is vying for one of the final roster spots with the Blue Jays in competition against fellow infielders Santiago Espinal, Eduardo Escobar and, to a lesser degree, Davis Schneider.
Not only have the Blue Jays been impressed by Clement’s early showing in camp, but so have other organizations across the sport, making a potential waiver claim or future trade seem likely if he were designated for assignment coming out of spring training.
Toronto’s staff admires what they’ve seen from the right-handed hitter over the first two-plus weeks of Grapefruit League action, and they’d prefer to keep him around heading into the 2024 season. However, if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, others already have his name circled as one to target.
“They like him,” a scout from another team recently told Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. “He doesn’t hit for power, but he runs and he’ll put the ball in play. I think they’ll keep him just in case something happens to Bo (Bichette) but I’ll put him down as someone to go after if they try to pass him through (waivers).”
The fourth-round selection from 2017 enjoyed a breakout performance at Triple-A Buffalo last season, excelling under the watchful eye of hitting coach Matt Hague – now an assistant on manager John Schnieder’s big-league staff. He slashed .348/.401/.544 with 11 home runs, 58 RBIs and a 136 wRC+ over 72 games.
That earned him a trip to the majors as an injury replacement for all-star shortstop Bo Bichette, and he certainly made the most of that opportunity, recording a .380/.385/.500 slash line with one bomb while driving in 10 across 30 games, worth 0.6 fWAR.
Clement also impressed in the field, posting four defensive runs saved and two outs above average in 100 innings at short. Additionally, he split time at second and third base, logging a combined 18 innings.
Little has changed early on for the former Cleveland Guardian, who’s seemingly picked up exactly where he left off in 2023. It’s still spring training, so his results must be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, his quality-of-contact metrics are tough to ignore, as four of his 10 tracked batted ball events have produced an exit velocity of 101 m.p.h. or higher.
The Blue Jays only have four bench spots available, two of which are reserved for one of their two catchers and a left-handed first baseman/DH, a role currently up for grabs between prospect Spencer Horwitz and non-roster invitee Daniel Vogelbach. That leaves Clement, Escobar, Schneider and Espinal likely in competition for the final two.
Unless Toronto acquires a right-handed platoon outfielder, it’d be shocking if Schneider – who spent the off-season improving his craft in left field – didn’t start this season in the majors. Barring a last-minute addition, he figures to share outfield duties with Isiah Kiner-Falefa when opposed by left-handed pitching, forcing Daulton Varsho or Kevin Kiermaier to the bench.
So, the trio of Clement, Escobar and Espinal (two options remaining) appear to be battling for the 13th position-player spot on the roster, with last season’s feel-good story putting forward a promising opening statement.


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