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The Yankees Clarkin returns to the mound in the desert

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Ian Clarkin -- part of the Yankees big 2013 draft haul -- missed all of 2015 with elbow troubles. Back on the hill in the Arizona Fall League, Clarkin is quickly becoming a prospect to keep an eye on in 2016.

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I haven’t hid the fact at all that I am a New York Yankees fan. So you must understand that I am ecstatic to see Ian Clarkin back on the mound in the Arizona Fall League. Is he a bit rusty and on an innings limit? Sure, but to have a team’s top ten prospect back in the mix is exciting all the same.

Clarkin of course was part of the Yankees big three first round draft picks in 2013. He went 33rd overall, right after Aaron Judge with the 32nd pick. Not too shabby drafting right there.

The 20-year old lefty stands at 6 foot 2 and has put on roughly five pounds since being drafted, now at 190. He was impressive in his first full season over two levels in 2014. After 15 successful starts with the Charleston Riverdogs, Clarkin finished the season at High-A Tampa, where he hurled arguably his best game of the season going five innings of one run ball while striking out four and walking just one. 

Then came the elbow trouble.

Clarkin missed the entire 2015 regular season after being shut down early with elbow inflammation. He never pitched this season, and after a brief pitstop in instructional ball, Clarkin headed out to the desert for some Arizona Fall League action.

His first two starts have gone well, although by no means perfect. Clarkin, pitching for the Surprise Saguaros, picked up his first win since August of 2014 in Saturday’s AFL action, defeating the Glendale Desert Dogs with 18-runs of insurance from his bats.

Clarkin’s first two outings should be looked at as rehab starts due to the long layoff, so there shouldn’t be much concern that his numbers don’t appear to be on pace with what he posted in 2014. Thus far, Clarkin has struck out four while walking six over two four-inning outings. 

Armed with a low-90s fastball, a plus-curveball and and a vastly improved changeup, Clarkin struck out a batter an inning in 2014 (75 over 75) while walking just 23, good for a 2.78 BB/9 ratio, which is impressive for a then 19-year old. Whereas he limited batters to less than a hit an inning in his 2014 campaign (71 over 75), Clarkin has been tagged for 11 hits over his eight AFL innings.

I’m not sharing these comparisons as a source of concern. I simply hope to show that Clarkin had a huge layoff, and at just 20-years old, he could be doing considerably worse against some of the top prospects in MiLB. His first two performances — although by no means "lights out" — should provide hope to Yankees faithful that Clarkin can bounce back and get on track to becoming that third or fourth starter they need.