Published On: April 8th, 2021

Clay is the 251st former Northwoods League player to debut in MLB

Rochester, Minn. – Former Mankato MoonDog Sam Clay, made his Major League debut for the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Clay is the 251st former Northwoods League player to reach the Major League level.

Clay, who played collegiately at Georgia Tech, played for the Mankato MoonDogs in 2013. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB draft.

In 2013 with the MoonDogs, Clay appeared in 13 games and was 3-1 with a 2.07 ERA. He struck out 37 batters in 34.2 innings.

Clay began his professional career in 2014 with the Elizabethton Twins of the Rookie level Appalachian League. He appeared in 19 games and was 2-1 with a 5.59 ERA. He struck out 44 batters in 29.0 innings and walked 17.

In 2015 Clay started the season with Elizabethton and was promoted, after 10 games, to the Cedar Rapids Kernels of the Lo-A Midwest League. He would finish the season in Cedar Rapids and had a combined 1-6 record and a 3.61 ERA between the two clubs. He also struck out 73 total batters in 72.1 innings.

In 2016 Clay began the season in Cedar Rapids before another promotion to the Fort Myers Miracle of the Hi-A Florida State League. He appeared in 24 games between the two clubs and was 6-7 with a 4.60 ERA. He struck out 115 batters in 115.1 innings and had a 1.587 WHIP.

In 2017 Clay once again split his season between two teams. He began the year in Fort Myers and then was sent up to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the AA Southern League. He had his best season as a professional, going 9-0 with a 1.87 ERA in 43 games. He struck out 67 batters in 67.1 innings and walked 45.

Clay spent the entire 2018 season with the Lookouts where he appeared in 34 games and was 2-6 with a 5.88 ERA. He pitched in 52 innings and struck out 61 batters.

In 2019 Clay started the season with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the AA Southern League. He was then promoted to the Rochester Red Wings of the AAA International League. For the season he was 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA. He struck out 72 batters in 69.1 innings and walked 28.

Following the 2020 season, Clay signed as a free agent with the Washington Nationals.

In his Major League debut against the Atlanta Braves, Clay entered the game in relief in the 4th inning. He pitched 1.0 inning allowing one hit and striking out two.


The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Having completed its’ 27th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, over 250 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and MLB All-Star Jordan Zimmermann (DET). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. For more information, visit or download the Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

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