Jays From the Couch highlights the accomplishments of Dunedin Blue Jays power right-handed reliever, Jackson McClelland
Aside from Roberto Osuna, none of the names above appeared in many, if any, Top Prospect Lists. They seemingly appeared ‘out of the blue’ to claim a role in the bullpen.
Jackson McClelland is one of these ‘out of blue’ prospects which took a giant step in his development during the 2017 season.
His selection in the 15th round of the 2015 draft wasn’t met with much fanfare. Other than his ranking as one of the West Coast Conference’s top prospects in 2014 and 2015, the Blue Jays fan base knew very little about the Pepperdine standout.
Heck, even Baseball America didn’t feel it necessary to provide a scouting report for this young man.
In his freshman season, McClelland was used primarily out the bullpen. His performance not only earned him a selection to the WCC All-Freshman Team but a chance to start in his sophomore season. Jackson would make 30 starts over the next two season with the Pepperdine Waves, finishing with a record of 16-8, 2.83 ERA. He walked 3.19/9IP and struck out 5.73/9IP while posting a 1.27 WHIP during his 3 years.
The 6-5 native of Beaumont, California, spent his first two seasons in the Blue Jays organization as a member of the Vancouver Canadians. Jackson made his professional debut as a starter, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits over 3IP. He hasn’t started a game since.
McClelland made 24 relief appearances for the C’s in 2016, converted one save and finished 13 games. He finished with a record of 2-4 with a 3.26 ERA, walking 3.0/9 IP and striking out 7.4/9 IP.
Putting the numbers aside for a moment, Jackson McClelland got some very good reviews for his leadership, work ethic, and perseverance. Jackson struggled with a shoulder issue which the Blue Jays staff caught and helped correct. With the shoulder right, Jackson saw his FB go from 92 mph to 95 mph by the end of the 2016 season.
In 2017, Jackson McClelland got his first taste of full-season A-Ball as a member of the Lansing Lugnuts. He quickly established himself as the Lugnuts closer earning 4 saves in April and a 1.86 ERA in 7 appearances.
Word got around that McClelland’s FB was routinely touching 97 mph. It’s very difficult to hide 6-foot-5, 220lb relievers with a 97 mph fastball. Before long Jackson was moving up the organizational ladder and heading to Dunedin.
As a member of the D-Jays, Jackson saw his role change. He still finds himself in high leverage situations and is a perfect 5-for-5 in save situations; however, McClelland is being called upon anytime the D-Jays need to get out of a jam.
Since joining the D-Jays on June 3rd, the 23-yr-old reliever has made 23 appearances and pitched 27.1IP. He’s posted a tidy 1.32 ERA with a 2.74 FIP and 3.49 xFIP.
Dunedin Blue Jays pitching coach Mark Riggins has reintroduced the 2-seam fastball into McClelland’s repertoire which has resulted in a ground ball rate increase from 35.3% with Lansing and 42.5% in 2016 to 56.3% with Dunedin. The 2-seam offering is being clocked at 93-94 mph.
The ground ball rate is not the only improvements in Jackson McClelland’s game since joining the D-Jays. He has seen his BB/9 fall from 4.50 in Lansing to 1.98, his LOB% has increased from 65.2% to 73.3%.
It appears that Jackson McClelland is well on his way to becoming another bullpen prospect. I expect to see Jackson McClelland start 2017 as a member of the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. There is an outside chance the 23-yr-old repeats Advanced-A as the D-Jays closer to starting the year.
If Jackson McClelland maintains his high GB% and low BB% with a solid K% Zach Jackson won’t be the only Dunedin RP to appear on the Toronto Blue Jays MLB.com Pipeline top 30 prospect list.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem JFtC
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