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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 100: Brian Clark

Our Top 100 kicks off with a southpaw in search of a bullpen home

Nitty gritty: Clark is in danger of falling into the organizational reliever zone if he can’t take a step forward in 2019.
Tiffany Wintz (@TiffW95)/South Side Sox

Brian Clark
225 pounds
Age: 25
SSS rank among all left-handed relievers in the system: 9

Clark spent his first two seasons as a reliever at Kent State, but was shifted to the rotation for his junior season. Clark’s numbers were far better as a reliever, as he combined to post a 1.72 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 62 2⁄3 innings, allowing just 46 hits (6.61 H/9) and 29 walks (4.16 BB/9) while fanning 61 (8.76 K/9). In his junior season, Clark posted a respectable 3.77 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 88 innings by allowing 75 hits (7.67 H/9) and 35 walks (3.58 BB/9) while striking out 70 (7.16 K/9). The White Sox liked Clark enough to select him in the ninth round of the 2014 MLB draft.

Clark pitched well with Great Falls in 2014, and fared even better with Winston-Salem in 2015, where he posted a solid 2.33 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 89 innings as a swingman, allowing 78 hits (.239 OBA) and 38 walks (10.2%) while punching out 85 (22.8%). The following year saw Clark pitch for both Birmingham and Charlotte, where he combined for a 2.70 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 56 2⁄3 innings — relinquishing 61 hits (.281 OBA) and 12 walks (5.1%) while striking out 48 (20.5%). In 2017 with Charlotte, Clark’s numbers worsened a bit, as he posted a 4.01 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 49 1⁄3 frames, allowing 59 hits (.298 OBA) and 13 walks (6.0%) while fanning 44 (20.2%).

Clark was demoted to Birmingham for 2018, and didn’t pitch well enough to make it back to Charlotte. In 41 games, Clark pitched 62 1⁄3 innings and posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, allowing 62 hits (.259 OBA) and 21 walks (7.8%) while striking out 65 (24.3%). Overall, his numbers (with the exception of ERA) were in line with what he’s produced in previous years; however, Clark needed to find a way to re-insert himself into the prospect picture — and he failed to do that.

Brooks Baseball lists out Clark’s repertoire as of 2016-17, when he was last tracked by PITCHf/x: four-seam fastball (89 mph), changeup (82 mph), slider (81 mph). Their scouting notes credit Clark with a heavy sink on his fastball with no side-to-side movement, generating a lot of misses from batters. His change and slider were rarely used in the Brooks sample, and has generated extreme fly ball results.

Clark was eligible for the Rule 5 draft the past December, but went unselected. He should find himself in the Charlotte bullpen — especially if Caleb Frare begins the season with the White Sox. Otherwise, Clark will return to Birmingham, for one last chance to avoid the stigma of being an organizational reliever.

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