|Jeff Morris – Follow on Twitter|
In their history, the Braves have only had one player reach the majors after being selected in the 27th round and signed right after the draft. That man was 1983 Notre Dame High School alum, Mark Lemke. I’m not saying Corbin Clouse will one day be held in as high of a regard as the Lemmer, but with the way the left-hander is pitching, it’s not impossible.
Clouse was born on June 26, 1995, in Lansing, Michigan. In high school, Clouse rather loved hitting and wanted to focus more on that. As a senior, he gave pitching another try and his star began to shine a bit brighter. His success at Grand Ledge High School did not go unnoticed as local Davenport University in Grand Rapids brought Clouse on campus. They sought to use him both in the outfield and on the mound and he batted .167 over four starts. He also appeared twice as a reliever. However, his season was cut short after an injury on a throw from the outfield to the plate. He sought and was granted a medical red shirt season. When he was healthy again for his redshirt freshman campaign, he no longer felt right in the batting box and felt uncomfortable trying to swing.
In response, Clouse moved to the mound full-time and was a big part of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament Champs that season. In ten games, including the first eight starts of his collegiate career, Clouse struck out nearly a batter an inning with a 2.82 ERA. He rarely went deep into the game, pitching just 38.1 innings, but using a four-pitch mix, Clouse excelled as a redshirt freshman. In his follow-up campaign, he continued to star, lowering his ERA to 1.62 over 50 innings. With a better feel for his slider, he struck out 75, setting a new school record (which lasted a year). He also pitched his best when it mattered the most and took home a Grand Rapids Bracket All-Tournament selection after striking out nine over 6.1 innings. A few weeks later, the Braves came calling.
Clouse didn’t expect to be drafted, but he also wasn’t going to give up an opportunity to become a professional. He joined Danville for their season opener, but he didn’t last long with the D-Braves. In four games, he walked two batters and struck out 16-of-22 batters he faced overall. It was ridiculous and the Braves took pity on the Appalachian League by promoting Clouse to Rome. While he wasn’t video-game numbers dominant there, Clouse remained excellent with 37 K’s in 23.2 innings. He did walk 13, but still maintained a 1.52 ERA and a 2.60 FIP with Rome.
Not that Clouse didn’t have anything to work on. Clouse doesn’t have the smoothest mechanics in the world and they can come out of whack from time-to-time, which causes his control to waiver. He worked with Dan Meyer, the Rome pitching coach to settle these things down, but they still pop up occasionally. Considering he didn’t really focus on pitching until the tail-end of his high school career, it’s not surprising that repeating his mechanics would be the hardest thing to come for Clouse. His biggest issue appears to be a follow-through that often leaves him a bit wild coming through. If it’s not consistent, it tends to affect his control.
This season, Clouse got off to a bit of a slow start, allowing runs in four of his first outings for Florida. His next 20 games, however, were typical Clouse dominance. He gave up three runs, but all were unearned. He walked 14 over 29.2 innings but struck out 40. He also upped his groundball rate over his early season struggles. With Clouse once again posting video-game type numbers, the Braves took notice and promoted the left-hander after his final Fire Frogs outing on July 16. He hasn’t been quite as good with Mississippi, mainly due to some increased control issues. Of his ten outings with the Double-A club, he’s avoided a walk just three times. He’s had just one totally clean outing – his last one when he pitched around a mess left by Devan Watts.
Splits-wise, he’s been a bit hurt by BABIP against fellow left-handers. Nobody hit him last year so his splits merely showed dominance. This year, lefties have hit .292 with a .732 OPS against him. It helps that they have a BABIP of .419 facing Clouse. Unlike many left-hand relievers without a 96 mph fastball in their arsenal, Clouse really doesn’t have a lot of natural deception built in his delivery so he’s not a smoke-and-mirrors specialist. While he could max out as a LOOGY, I think he has a higher-end projection built in and his slider is a big reason.
In college, Clouse threw four pitches plus a rarely-used changeup. He’s basically done away with his four-seamer and curve and relied heavily on a two-seam sinker and a slider. He doesn’t have big-time velocity, but nothing he throws is straight. His two-seamer, when located right, leads to a lot of whiffs and either weak grounders or pop-ups as hitters try to elevate a pitch that is dying down at the plate. When the ball floats up, Clouse gets in trouble as it flattens and becomes a slow and hittable fastball. The slider is a plus pitch with more potential in it that he’s yet to unlock. It runs about 5-7 mph slower than his high 80’s/low 90’s heat and drops like a rock. It almost looks like a hard curveball, but still, retains some run toward the right-handed batting box. If he’s able to get ahead on righties, he can utilize the slider to handcuff them into some awkward-looking swings. Lefties are at an even bigger disadvantage as they flail at a slider that the catcher receives a foot outside the strike-zone.
Being that it took just 44 games for Clouse to get promoted to Double-A, it’s appropriate to wonder if Clouse’s advancement could lead to a promotion fairly soon and the answer is absolutely. While his control needs to be cleaned up, Clouse has been very effective as a professional – especially one with so little fanfare. The fact that he’s still learning to pitch despite being a three-year college player also suggests that we haven’t seen nearly his best to this point. The Braves have cornered the market on drafting small college relief arms and Clouse looks like he could be a hot streak away from making his major league debut. That’s equal parts scouting, developing, and hard work by the player.
For a scouting report with video, keep scrolling or click here.