Why Detroit Tigers protected Kody Clemens from Rule 5 draft: ‘He’s got some pop’

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers had decisions to make.

There were some key prospects general manager Al Avila could pick from: Kody Clemens, Angel De Jesus, Paul Richan, Logan Shore, Garrett Hill, Will Vest and Chavez Fernander.

He chose Clemens and De Jesus, adding them to the 40-man roster and protecting them from the Rule 5 draft.

“I think De Jesus is close (to the big leagues),” Avila said Monday. “I think he could be a help, for sure, at some point.”

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While Clemens and De Jesus are safe, those other players — among others — are exposed to the Rule 5 draft, scheduled for Dec. 8, the final day of the annual Winter Meetings. Last year, the Tigers selected outfielder Akil Baddoo with the No. 3 pick after the Minnesota Twins left him unprotected.)

Any team that makes a selection pays $100,000 to the organization losing the player. Players chosen in the draft must spend the entire season on the active MLB roster (or injured reserve) or be offered back to their former team for $50,000.

Of every Tiger eligible, Clemens has the most recognizable name. He is the son of Roger Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young winner and 1986 American League MVP. It’s his final year on the Hall of Fame ballot, and the same is true for Curt Schilling and Barry Bonds.

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Kody, drafted 79th overall in 2018, is the Tigers’ No. 18 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. This season, he played 97 games for Triple-A Toledo. Now that he has joined the 40-man roster, he should make his MLB debut in 2022. He still has a chance to be a part of the future.

He hit .247 with 18 home runs, 59 RBIs, 36 walks and 94 strikeouts in 97 games for the Mud Hens in 2021. The left-hander slugged .466 with a .778 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, the best marks of his three-year career in the minor leagues.

“He’s an interesting cat in the sense that his bat plays well,” Avila said. “He’s got some pop. I don’t know if people realize he’s got some pop in that bat. We like him. We feel that he could be a part of our not-too-distant future.”

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During his first full season as a pro in 2019, he crushed 12 homers in 128 games. He has a .430 slugging percentage in 280 minor-league games.

Although Clemens is primarily a second baseman, he added right field and first base to his defensive résumé this season.

“I honestly think second base is harder than both those positions, so it hasn’t been bad at all,” Clemens told the Free Press in July. “I’m obviously open to do whatever the guys need me to do and whatever will get me in the lineup. It’s been great.”

The Tigers offered the idea of more positions so Clemens can have numerous ways to reach the big leagues. If his offensive production continues to develop, he could be part of the organization’s solution.

“I think Kody really brings a lot to the table,” Avila said. “We’ve been playing him a little bit at first (base), a little bit in the outfield, as well as second base. Third base might even be a possibility.”

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The other player Avila added — De Jesus — signed with the Tigers in 2016 as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. The 24-year-old started the 2021 season in Double-A Erie and tossed 13⅓ scoreless innings in a row with five walks and 18 strikeouts in nine games (one start).

The Tigers then promoted him to Triple-A Toledo in June. De Jesus delivered a 4.21 ERA with 32 walks and 62 strikeouts across 51⅓ innings in 35 games (two starts). He averaged 5.1 walks and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings with Erie and Toledo.

De Jesus is now playing for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. He has an 11.25 ERA with four walks and one strikeout in four innings across five relief appearances through Wednesday. The reality, though, is that four of those five games were solid outings. (He gave up five runs in his latest game.)

Soon, he should be playing for the Tigers.

“Those two guys,” Avila said of Clemens and De Jesus, “they’re fits for us as we look forward.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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