Frederick Keys (A-High) SS Chris Clare has improved in 2018 by most every measurable over his 2017 “audition”; he is showing that he is both comfortable in and belongs in the Carolina League.
The Baltimore Orioles drafted Clare out of High Point University (North Carolina) in the 21st round of the 2016 MLB draft. Upon signing he was assigned to the Aberdeen Ironbirds (A-Short) as most collegiate players are. He began the 2017 season in Delmarva (A-Low) where he earned a spot on the South Atlantic League’s North Division All-Star team.
Clare was promoted to Frederick on July 20th and finished out the season with the Keys. His numbers with the Keys were more than respectable: .260/ .364/ .323 slash line with 19 runs scored, 9 RBI, 2 doubles, 2 homeruns, 19 walks, 26 strikeouts and 3 stolen bases in 4 attempts over 42 games (127 at-bats).
The 2018 season marked a return to Frederick for the 23 year-old middle infielder. Overall, his stats are showing improvement. As of June 11th Clare is slashing .233/ .383/ .331 with 27 runs scored, 19 RBI, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homeruns, 37 walks, 33 strikeouts and 5 stolen bases in 6 attempts over 53 games (163 at-bats). Aside from his batting average, everything has improved and increased in almost the same sample size.
So far this season, Clare has produced 7 multi-hit games and 3 multi-RBI games. His longest hitting streak lasted 6 games in May (5/5-5/10). During that streak he hit .476/ .542/ .810 with 6 runs scored, 4 doubles, 1 homerun and 7 RBI.
I attribute Clare’s improvements to both the added experience facing Carolina League pitching and a better knowledge of the strike zone. This season he has lowered his strikeout % by 0.6% and has increased his walk % by 6% over his 2017 Keys’ rate. What is interesting is that he has increased his ground out to fly out ratio while increasing his extra-base hits. I would say that the balls he is driving he is driving well.
Defensively, Clare is certainly holding his own. He has handled 187 chances with 69 put outs, 109 assists and 9 errors for a .952 fielding percentage. He has helped turn 28 double plays as well.
Clare is hitting .220 with runners in scoring position as well as .289 with runners in scoring position and two outs. No hit with runners in scoring position was as noteworthy as Monday’s was. His walk-off single with one out in the 10th inning scored T.J. Nichting from second base for a 1-0 win over the Lynchburg Hill Cats. That RBI gave both Zach Muckenhirn his first victory of the year and the Keys their first walk-off victory in extra innings of the year.
The early indications are that 2018 is shaping up to be a solid and successful season for Clare. I like the way his numbers are trending and hope to see more of the same. A few more seasons like this and he may put his name in the Orioles’ future middle infield conversation.
The often maligned Orioles’ minor league system has a lot of good players who do not garner much publicity but who are worthy of fans’ time and interest; fans just have to know where to look. The Frederick Keys are a good place to look and Chris Clare is proof positive of that.
** To read more from Josh Michael (founder/editor Baby Birdland), Nick Stevens and myself about all levels of the Baltimore Orioles minor leagues please visit Baby Birdland **