SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - University of California San Diego standout slugger Zander Clarke has signed his first professional contract with the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball (MLB), as an undrafted free agent.
Clarke, a product of Newbury Park (Newbury Park HS), signed the contract in recent days at the Giants' Spring Training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., having flown there around July 13 from Portland, Ore., where he was spending a third straight summer taking a star turn for the Portland Pickles. Clarke has remained in Arizona and been assigned initially to the AZL Giants Black of the Rookie-level Arizona League (AZL).
A transfer who spent his first three years out of high school at UCLA, Clarke thus forgoes his final season of college eligibility. He was not selected during the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft, June 4-6, but still had the ability to sign as a free agent.
Clarke was a unanimous All-American and All-West Region First Team selection by all three award outlets at the end of his one and only season in La Jolla, and earned several individual accolades. Those included California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Most Valuable Player, CCAA Newcomer of the Year, CCAA Championship Most Valuable Player, and American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings West Position Player of the Year.
Clarke led the CCAA in hitting (.385), home runs (18-tied), RBI (86) and slugging percentage (.690), in fact procuring the CCAA Triple Crown. The 86 runs batted in marked a new single-season school record, besting the 84 by Brandon Gregorich during the Tritons' 2010 national runner-up campaign. The total was also tied for second-most in the entire nation in 2018, among all three NCAA levels, behind only Division II Player of the Year Zack Shannon of Delta State's 93. Clarke paced his team with 87 hits and 156 total bases, and added 54 runs, 15 doubles, 23 walks, 10 hit-by-pitches, two steals on two tries, and a .460 on-base percentage. He fielded at a .980 clip (90-6-2) with six outfield assists.
Clarke produced three grand slams and three games with two home runs. He got UC San Diego's NCAA tournament off to a rousing start by going 3-for-5 with a season-high seven RBI in the West Regional opener on May 17, a 22-3 romp over city rival Point Loma. In his first three plate appearances in that one, he had a two-run home run in the first, a grand slam in the second, and an RBI single in the third. The very next night, he would belt what proved to be the game-winning home run, an opposite-field solo shot to right with one away and a two-strike count in the ninth, to complete an improbable comeback against California Baptist. The Tritons were down 6-0 after the first inning of the contest, and won it, 9-8. They would go on to repeat as West Region champions by virtue of a second straight four-game sweep in Azusa. UC San Diego then went 1-2 at the NCAA Championship in Cary, N.C.
Previously, Clarke drove in a tournament-high nine runs in aiding UC San Diego to a record seventh CCAA Championship banner. His 11 RBI also were tops at the West Regional. He knocked in a total of 31 runs over 15 games in the month of May, with at least one in each of the first 10, and two or more in nine of those. Clarke led the Tritons with 29 multiple-hit games and 26 multiple-RBI efforts, the latter statistic including three with five-plus runs batted in, and five in all with four or more.
Clarke played in 58 of UC San Diego's 60 games, missing two due to injury. He started 57 of them, with 55 in right field and two as the designated hitter.
At the time of his departure from Portland, Clarke was once again tearing up his summer league with the Pickles, who moved from the Great West League (GWL) to the West Coast League (WCL) this season. The 2017 GWL Player of the Year, he was leading the WCL in hitting (.390), home runs (eight) and RBI (28). Clarke was chosen to the GWL All-Star Game in each of the past two summers, earning MVP distinction last year, and was a 2018 WCL All-Star Game selection, but of course did not appear in that game on July 17 in Port Angeles, Wash. Over three summers as a Pickle, Clarke blasted no fewer than 26 home runs.
UC San Diego went 43-17 overall and 30-14 in CCAA play, the 43 overall wins tied for third-most in program history, and 30 league victories second-most since joining the CCAA for the 2001 season.