Following his first half-season in the minor leagues, former BYU shortstop Jackson Cluff got a chance to work out during instructional league and then into spring training with the Nationals. The left-handed hitter was a sixth-round draft selection in 2019.
Cluff is rated as the No. 20 Nats prospect in the MLBPipeline.com top 30, Cluff, 23, is from Meridian, Idaho, and played for the Cougars in 2016 as a freshman and again in 2019 as a sophomore. In 2019, he slashed .327/.518/.458 with 20 doubles, three triples, four homers, 12 stolen bases and 56 RBIs in 53 games, and was named to the All-West Coast Conference first team and ABCA/Rawlings All-Region second team.
Nationals minor league hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich has been very impressed with Cluff's baseball talent and ability to swing the bat.
"A very solid kid," Gingrich said of the 6-foot, 185-pounder. "Talk about quick twitch - this kid, he's got bat speed, he's got a lot of things that you like a lot. I think he was kind of a steal that late of the rounds. ... . His (swing) path is awesome."
Cluff's two-year Mormon mission in Atlanta, Ga., was from 2017-2018. His father, Paul Cluff, was a two-time All-American at BYU and was drafted in the 1989 amateur draft. Gingrich said Jackson Cluff has not lost his touch for baseball despite concentrating on his mission away from the game for two years.
"He is a little bit older and he took two years off from playing baseball," Gingrich said. "Even taking two years off and coming back its pretty incredible, watching him. He's an exciting kid and I expect a lot of good things from him."
Gingrich said Cluff has the ability to incorporate his lower half into his swing path. The Nats are looking to make a slight tweak to the finish of that swing.
"He knows how to use his lower half," Gingrich said. "A lot of times, he wants to lift up out of his lower half at contact. We just need to get him to where he stays grounded more consistently. But this guy has a lot of things that you like a lot."
Cluff's next step in pro baseball is likely the opportunity to play for high Single-A Fredericksburg. Cluff played in 62 games for low Single-A Hagerstown in 2019, hitting .229 with eight doubles, five triples, five homers, 11 stolen bases and 19 RBIs. He also got one at-bat with the Nationals in a major league spring training game in March.
"He's aggressive. As soon as he is in the box, he is ready to go," Gingrich said. "He's very good at hitting the ball up the middle and to the pull side. He will take pitches on the outer half and he hits those over to right center."
Gingrich wants Cluff to let the ball come to him a little bit more before he goes after the pitch.
"Two big things are getting him to stay down in his legs when he swings and to let him know when that happens he has a lot more time to let the ball travel," Gingrich said. "He makes contact way far out in front of the plate, so he has more time to let the ball travel. But the mechanics of his swing and the actions of him as a player are incredible. He knows how to play. I like this kid a lot. He's very, very talented."
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