Porter Clayton’s career could have been in an entirely different place. The left-hander was well enough regarded coming out of Bonneville High School in Idaho that he ended up at the University of Oregon and appeared in 22 games as a freshman. However, then he put his career on hold for a two-year Mormon mission in Houston, Texas. That was what he wanted to do, and he understood the consequences that his decision would have on his baseball career. Now, as he joins the Tampa Bay Rays organization as their 19th round pick, he will hope to fulfill his other dream, pitching in the major leagues.
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Clayton returned from his mission to pitch his sophomore season in 2014. He managed just a 4.46 ERA with more walks than strikeouts as he worked his way back into baseball shape, but the New York Yankees were sufficiently impressed that they made him their 21st round pick. Clayton didn’t sign and instead transferred to Division II Dixie State, where he was better but still delivered uneven results. He finished with a 5.20 ERA and a 60-36 strikeout to walk ratio in 71 innings pitched. He actually had a 51-23 K-BB mark in 57 IP before coming apart in his last three outings, possibly because he had not thrown that many innings in a long time.
Porter Clayton turned 22 in May, and his days as a projectable 6’4″ lefty are well in the past. Even though he now weighs 220 pounds, his fastball remains in the 88-91 MPH range, and he may never throw harder than that. He also used to throw a dynamic curveball, but it hasn’t looked the same since he came back. Instead of being a high-upside starting pitching prospect, he profiles as a sinker-slider-changeup reliever at best. He locates his fastball relatively well down in the zone for the most part and will hope to sharpen his command of the secondary pitches.
We really can’t have any sort of expectations for Porter Clayton at this point, but the Tampa Bay Rays will hope to rekindle some proportion of the promise he showed pre-surgery. He had his time devoted to his faith, and now he will have his time devoted to baseball. Despite his age, he has a relatively fresh arm thanks to the two years off, and with enough work–and maybe some looks back at what he was doing in high school–he must still have some promise left. The Rays believed that he deserved a flier in the 19th round, and we’ll have to see what he can do.
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