When Matt Clark stepped up to the plate with 1 out in the bottom of the sixth inning on Friday, he was not met with many cheers in the stadium.
Other than the stray comparison to Clark the Cub, I’m not quite sure many fans were aware of who Matt Clark was. After talking it over with Brett, we realized that even we missed this minor league signing, because the Cubs have made so many similar moves over the past few weeks and months.
Of course, these moves continue to be important, even at the periphery, so we will not deprive you of your Cubs Minor League Signing! piece of the week, even though Clark has already appeared in three Cactus League games now.
The San Diego Padres selected Matt Clark in the 12th round of the 2008 MLB Draft. But, before we go on, I’d like to point out that both Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod did not begin working with the Padres until late 2009. So, while they are undoubtedly familiar with Clark, they were not the original executives that scouted and signed him.
Clark worked his way up the minor league ladder, finally reaching the Padres’ AAA affiliate as a 25-year-old in 2012. That season, he raked, slashing .290/.367/.506 with an 11.2% walk rate and a 123 wRC+. However, as a first baseman (and occasional left fielder), Clark never really caught on. He spent the end of 2012 playing in the Dominican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues, and then spent all of 2013 playing in the Japan Central League. He struggled a bit in Japan, though, slashing just .238/.328/.457 before making his way back to the states.
As a 27-year-old in 2014, he caught on with the New York Mets for a while, before signing a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on July 4, 2014 (hey! that’s when the Cubs acquired Addison Russell and Billy McKinney). It’s not particularly clear what was the impetus for leaving the Mets in favor of the Brewers, though it may have simply been a matter of opportunity. He eventually appeared in 16 games for the Brewers in 2014, before returning to AAA for the entirety of last season.
But it is there that he rediscovered his mashing ways. Across 548 appearances in AAA last year, Clark slashed .291/.367/.492 with a 10.6% walk rate and a 125 wRC+. Now, he’s signed a minor league deal, including a now-obvious invitation to Spring Training, with the Chicago Cubs.
Still, even ZiPS is projecting Clark to hit 21 home runs in 468 plate appearances this season. Maybe there’s something there, if an opportunity developed. You can never have too much depth, and having a little secret power stashed in AAA Iowa can be helpful in case of a rash of injuries, or come September. Good luck, Matt Clark, and sorry we missed you initially.