Max Clark in an intriguing option for the Detroit Tigers at pick No. 3
The Detroit Tigers are in a great position to land a good player at the top of the 2023 MLB Draft on July 9. They're pretty much guaranteed to get an impact player in a top-heavy draft class. One of those impact players is Indiana prep outfielder Max Clark, who's been generating a lot of buzz for a while now.
Clark is a native of Franklin, Indiana. He's 6-foot-1, 190 lbs. As a kid, he played travel ball on a team that has produced MLB talent such as Lance Lynn, former Tiger Tucker Barnhart, and hall-of-famer Scott Rolen.
In 2021, he was named the Indiana Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year by hitting .450 with six home runs, 30 RBIs, and 31 stolen bases. He also pitched that year, striking out a whopping 120 batters in just over 50 innings. He was just a sophomore.
As a junior in 2022, he was even better, hitting .577 with nine home runs, 32 RBIs, and 22 steals. He was named the Indiana Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year once again.
He has played for the Team USA 18u team, and has competed in the Perfect Game Showcase. He is committed to Vanderbilt, which is a college baseball powerhouse, so whomever drafts him may have to give him the bag in order to get him to sign.
By far his greatest strength is his speed, which some scouts view as a plus-plus skill according to MLB Pipeline.
Here's some of what Pipeline has to say about Clark:
"Clark has four tools that grade as at least plus, starting with his hitting ability, which some evaluators rate as plus-plus. He has a sweet left-handed swing and a mature approach that focuses on smoking line drives from gap to gap. He presently concentrates on making hard contact rather than launching balls, but his bat speed and projectable strength should translate into at least 20-homer power that he already hints at in batting practice. "- MLB Pipeline
When they say Clark has a sweet left-handed swing, they aren't joking. It's a thing of beauty.
That swing ables him to hit the ball hard. He generated a top exit velocity of 94 mph at the 2022 Perfect Game Showcase, which put him in the top 3%. He's just an outstanding hitting talent.
While his hit tool is plus-plus overall, some scouts still have questions about whether the power will ever develop. His swing and exit velocities should be able to generate *some* power at the pro level, but his frame isn't very projectable for power, though he has grown some over the past year.
Here's what Fangraphs had to say about Clark's potential lack of power:
"Though his swing doesn't feature big lift and Clark lacks overt, frame-based power projection, the amount of contact he makes and its quality should enable him to hit for plenty of in-game power in pro ball, just probably not 30-plus homer"- Fangraphs
Keep in mind this was pre-2023 season, where it sounds like Clark has been trying to generate more loft in his swing per the tweet from Joe Doyle above. Even if he only hits 15ish homers in the pros, his contact ability should be more than enough to make up for that.
Fangraphs also compared him to Corbin Carroll of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who is a former No. 1 overall prospect. He's had an oustanding rookie season so far, and the power has not been an issue for him. If Clark ends up like Carroll, I think he'll be just fine.
Fit with Detroit Tigers
Clark would be a great addition to the Tigers farm system. His contact ability and plus-plus speed could make him attractive to the new front office. The question now becomes, will he be there at No. 3 overall?
ESPN's Kiley McDaniel dropped his most recent mock draft earlier this week ($$$), and he mocked Clark to go 1:1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He said he's been hearing some buzz that the Pirates are targeting him for an underslot deal.
This would not be the first time the Pirates have done this. They did it 2021 when they took Louisville C Henry Davis 1:1 instead of SS Marcelo Mayer, who was projected to go at that spot. It's very easy to see that happening again.
But if you're Pittsburgh, I don't see how you could pass on talent such as LSU OF Dylan Crews, Florida OF Wyatt Langford, or even LSU RHP Paul Skenes. The draft is still a month out, so there's a lot that can happen, but it's going to be interesting to see how things pan out.