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Jackson McClelland Discovers Key To Velocity

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Righthander Jackson McClelland’s continued velocity gains and progress on the mound make him an intriguing possibility for the Blue Jays as they face 40-man roster decisions this offseason.

The 24-year-old reliever was clocked up to 101 mph this year at Double-A New Hampshire. In 43.2 innings between high Class A Dunedin and the Fisher Cats, he struck out 57 against 21 walks, which was the first time he has notched more than a strikeout per inning in his career.

Swing-and-miss stuff like McClelland offers is in high demand, which means it’s not out of the question another team would roll the dice on his arm in the Rule 5 draft, should he not be protected.

But the Blue Jays have a number of players deserving of 40-man consideration and were full after Julian Merryweather came over from the Indians as the player to be named for Josh Donaldson.

Given the organization’s need for starters, Hector Perez, Jordan Romano and Jon Harris are likely to gain priority, making it tougher for the Blue Jays to carry a big-armed reliever just tasting Double-A.

Those realities are things McClelland, who was assigned to the Arizona Fall League, tries not to think about too much. He leans instead on that old saying, "Just focus on what you have to do every day and let everything else take care of itself.”

"Business and I, it's not really my thing,” he adds. "I come out here and hang with the guys here and if something happens, awesome. If not, I'm with the Blue Jays and I can't thank them enough for how much they've done for me.”

That includes Toronto selecting him in the 15th round in 2015 out of Pepperdine, helping him rehab a torn labrum in his shoulder and reworking his delivery, first with former pitching coordinator Sal Fasano and later at Dunedin with pitching coach Mark Riggins.

"I always had good arm strength, but I never really got to my legs, which is why Mark Riggins was so instrumental—I can't overstate how big he was in my career,” McClelland said. "He saw (the velocity) in me and always told me, ‘Hey, it’s there. We’ve just got to get to it now.’ ”

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2018 MLB Rule 5 Draft Preview (Updated 12/12)

Multiple players eligible for selection in next month's Rule 5 Draft, led off by Richie Martin.

JAYS CHATTER

• Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. headlined the list of Blue Jays appearing in the AFL. He picked up where he left off at the plate, earning player of the week honors right out of the gate.

• Shortstop Bo Bichette withdrew from the AFL because of elbow and knee soreness, ailments the team described as minor. He’s expected to be fully ready for spring training.

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