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Know Your 40: Preston Claiborne

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Claiborne's not quite a 19th century English gent, but he's reportedly the newest Yankees pitcher on the 40-man roster.


Name: Preston Claiborne
Position: Reliever (RHP)
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 25 (born 1/21/1988)
Height: 6'2" Weight: 215 lbs.
Remaining Contract: Pre-arbitration, under team control
2012 Statistics: (AA/AAA): 50 G, 82 IP, 2.96 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 1.220 WHIP, 7.0 H/9, 4.0 BB/9, 8.6 K/9

Late last night, word leaked from minor leaguers Mark Montgomery, JR Murphy, and Rob Segedin seemed to confirm that Claiborne was the reliever chosen from the minors to replace the injured Joba Chamberlain on the Yankees' 25-man roster. Brian Cashman had mentioned him, Montgomery, and Sam Demel as possible candidates to fill in for the big righty. Claiborne also appeared to confirm the news, although as of the time I write this, nothing official has been announced:

The kid's excited to be a Yankee though, and I'm sure his dad would have been ecstatic as well. The Yankees will need to designate someone for assignment to make room for Claiborne, although it's anyone's guess as to who it will be. The obvious signs point to Ben Francisco or Cody Eppley, but we will learn the details later today.

I was surprised that Claiborne was chosen among that group since Montgomery's the hot prospect and Demel has the big-league experience that the Yankees so dearly value, but perhaps it is not that much of a shock. The Yankees thought enough of him to give him a non-roster invite to Spring Training this year, and in my writeup of all these guys, I said this about Claiborne:

A graduate of Tulane University, Claiborne was a late Yankee pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, selected in the 17th round. He has exceeded expectations and last year became only the second Yankee from that draft to reach Scranton. Claiborne needs to work on his control, but a low-90s fastball, changeup, and slider combined with decent peripherals certainly offer some encouraging signs. His K/9 and H/9 took slight turns in the wrong direction when he was promoted to Triple-A on June 28th, but he made up for that by improving his control. He’s thrown 163 innings out of the ‘pen in the last two years, so his numbers and Ramiro Mendoza-like flexibility (sans spot-starting) suggest that he could make the bigs sometime this year in a pinch. It's highly unlikely to happen out of camp though. (Video 1) (Video 2)

Welp, looks like we've reached that pinch. Claiborne impressed the Yankees in camp by allowing only one run and three walks in 10.2 innings, striking out eleven, and limiting opponents to a .214 batting average. He returned to Triple-A Scranton, where he served as their closer. He appeared in eight games, saving three of them, and he only walked one man in 10.1 innings of work.

Scranton beat writer Donnie Collins tweeted that these were higher-leverage innings than Montgomery pitched in, so that helps explain why they prefer Claiborne. It could also be an issue of them preferring to delay Montgomery's clock until after June 1st--with another reliever pitching just as well (if not better), they might as well try someone else to get an extra year out of Montgomery, who likely has more of a future than Claiborne. Here's more from Collins on Claiborne:

Claiborne's control has been more efficient since that midseason promotion to Scranton last year, and the more walks he can avoid at the big-league level, the better. The Yankees love relievers who throw strikes, which is why they enjoyed David Phelps so much in the bullpen last year. As mentioned above, Clairborne throws a low-90s fastball, changeup, and slider, a repertoire of fine capacity for a reliever. He can throw multiple innings (hopefully better than Shawn Kelley), and he will likely fill a middle-relief role.

Either way, it's nice to see one of the kids get a shot at the 'pen rather than a random veteran, so here's looking forward to Claiborne's first appearance. He'll be the first Yankee from the 2010 Draft to make it to the pros.

UPDATE: Eppley was the one axed to make room for Claiborne, per Sweeny Murti. Claiborne gets Eppley's old #38; may he do better with it than Cody did.