EDITOR’S NOTE: Though the big-league Cubs season has ended, there’s still Cubs-related baseball this year. Eight Cubs prospects will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. AFL games begin Tuesday, and Tim will be presenting profiles of all the Cubs players on the Solar Sox before game action begins.
Bailey Clark has been a bit of a hummingbird in the Cubs pipeline. You have to be looking at just the right time, in just the right place, or you’ll miss him. Hopefully, his stint in the Arizona Fall League will be a bit of a conclusion for that trend.
In 2016, the Cubs drafted Clark in the fifth round out of Duke. He made four appearances before being shut down. Two of those starts were in the Arizona Summer League, where few people look for hummingbirds. 2017 saw him continue his education in Durham, North Carolina. He pitched in only 13 games in that season.
Injuries limited Clark’s 2018 to 57 innings over three levels. However, as the season concluded, he was as healthy as he had been. As such, playing for the Solar Sox was a rather logical step to get back some misplaced innings from the summer. Getting an outing or two per week over five full weeks of the Fall League season should help to show where Clark is for 2019.
Clark has averaged over a strikeout an inning as a professional. That isn’t de riguer in the Cubs pipeline, as the Cubs tend to be more of a “repertoire” type of a pitching staff type. Clark, though, goes mid-90s with a filthy slider. His 9.6 strikeouts per nine come with a 4.1 walks per nine.
Unlike many Fall League players, Clark isn’t Rule 5 Draft-eligible, yet. This assignment is about getting him innings, not checking to see if he’s roster spot-worthy. Nonetheless, he has a higher probability of being a leverage reliever for the parent club than Solar Sox relievers Manuel Rondon or Erick Leal. Perhaps September showed you the importance of having relief options in the upper minors. With a solid look in Mesa, Clark would represent a Tennessee placement.
His highest affiliation so far has been Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. He appeared in four August games for the Pelicans, tossing two, two, two, and three innings. He only allowed one run, and fanned four, walking nobody. That was a much better stint than his longer stint earlier in the season. That one led to a Disabled List trip.
The temptation in this sort of article could be to over-represent. However, Clark is one of those boom-through-bust types. If he locates his pitches, he has MLB upside. Possibly, even, as a leverage type. Which ought to lead the observer basing the future on expectations to that he was a fifth-round selection.
Two players who were selected and signed at the 164 slot have had careers above 1.7 WAR. Those two have been Scott Karl (Brewers/1992) and George Kontos (Yankees/2006). As with “down the ticket” draft selections, it’s kind of an achievement to get invited to the Fall League.
Then, again, this hummingbird has one more season before he needs to be ready to be selected come December. As such, note how he does, and add that information to what you know about him. The feeder could use a bit of a refill.