Many prospects get sent to the Arizona Fall League because they need to make up for at-bats or innings lost to injury. Ian Clarkin needs them more than most.
The Yankees left-hander came down with elbow inflammation in Spring Training. While it didn't require surgery or develop into anything more serious, he didn't pitch until joining the AFL.
Clarkin joined the AFL's Surprise Saguaros without having worked in a game that counted since Aug. 7, 2014. He also has made just one start above low Class A, but he wasn't daunted by the challenge of facing older and better hitters in Arizona.
"As much as it is a surprise to be here this young, I can compete here," Clarkin said. "I know I can."
In his first two starts for the Saguaros, Clarkin had been true to his word. He has looked rusty while yielding 11 hits and six walks in eight innings, but he has battled to strand 13 of those baserunners.
More important, he has flashed the stuff that made him a first-round pick (33rd overall) out of Madison High in San Diego in 2013. He has worked at 89-92 mph with his fastball and spun some quality curveballs. He has gotten into jams because his command understandably hasn't been as sharp as usual.
Clarkin, the Yankees' No. 7 prospect, has logged just 80 innings in three years as a pro, though he's still quite young at age 20. He said all of his unexpected time on the sidelines has been frustrating, though beneficial as well.
"It's a blessing in disguise because there's times when I get to study film every single day," Clarkin said. "I went to the field, I didn't just go in, rehab and leave. I went, watched the [Gulf Coast League] games, took notes.
"I watched every outing of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, David Price, took notes on all those guys, see what made them successful. After this long year of being hurt, I think it's going to help me in the long run be a better pitcher."
Yankees hitters in the Fall League
• Tyler Austin, OF/1B -- A 13th-round pick out of a Georgia high school who signed for $130,000 in 2010, he was New York's minor league player of the year in 2012 but hasn't had a fully healthy season since. His bat speed and feel for hitting weren't as apparent in 2015, when he batted .240/.315/.343 with six homers in 94 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
• Dustin Fowler, OF -- Another late-round over-slot signing from the Georgia high school ranks, he received a $278,000 bonus in the 18th round of the 2013 Draft. He displayed some of the best all-around tools in the Yankees system while hitting .298/.334/.394 with 30 steals in 123 games at two Class A stops this year.
• Gary Sanchez, C -- Since signing for $3 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, he has shown impressive power and arm strength as well as a need to refine his hitting approach and his receiving. Sanchez made strides in both areas this season, when he batted .274/.330/.485 with 18 homers in 93 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He leads the AFL with five homers and 15 RBIs after two weeks of play and was named AFL hitter of the week.
• Tyler Wade, SS/2B -- Unheralded as a fourth-round selection from a Southern California high school in 2013, he has impressed with his line-drive bat and quality middle-infield defense. Between Class A Advanced and Double-A, he hit .262/.321/.333 with 33 steals in 127 games in 2015.
Yankees pitchers in the Fall League
• Domingo Acevedo, RHP -- One of the hardest throwers among New York prospects, he sits in the mid-90s and can reach 100 mph with his fastball. The Dominican product has made just one full-season appearance through age 21, though he did dominate the short-season New York-Penn League to the tune of a 1.69 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 48 innings this summer.
• Chaz Hebert, LHP -- Relying on the ability to command average stuff, he has advanced to Triple-A four years after signing for $148,000 as a 27th-round choice from a Louisiana high school in 2011. He went 10-7, 2.55 with a 108/30 K/BB ratio in 134 innings in 2015, seeing most of his action in Double-A.
• Tyler Webb, LHP -- He won two College World Series championships at South Carolina before turning pro as a 10th-rounder in 2013. Armed with a 90-92 mph fastball and an effective changeup, he had a 2.84 ERA and a 41/11 K/BB ratio in 38 Triple-A innings this year.