Detroit Tigers Draft Analysis: Max Clark
On Sunday evening, the 2023 MLB Draft officially got underway. In the hours before the draft, the rumors were raging, and there was consistently less of an idea to who the Detroit Tigers might pick at third overall.
While there was a time that Max Clark was expected to be the first overall pick, it was Paul Skenes who went 1:1 to the Pirates. The Nationals followed up at 1:2 with Dylan Crews. Leaving the Detroit Tigers their choice of Clark, Walker Jenkins, or Wyatt Langford.
In his first year as President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris and his front office opted to deviate from the college bat narrative that had been being plugged. The Tigers landed on Max Clark in their draft room deliberations, selecting the Franklin, Ind. native with the third overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft.
Clark was expected to be a top-five draft pick and ranged all over the top five, depending on where you fancy to read your mock drafts. But, the way things played out, Clark will be a Detroit Tigers prospect for the years to come.
When it comes to Max Clark, he's going to be a toolsy player down the line. He's got tools that project to improve in a pro organization and has the potential to reach a very high ceiling as set by many different folks out there.
Clark has an elite defensive upside, being able to handle the outfield grass well in terms of getting good jumps, tracking down balls, making the tough plays, and showing off a cannon of an arm. The defensive leaves little to wonder and is something that should fare well as he gets into the Tigers organization.
The speed is real; the twitch is there and is something that makes him so elite with the glove on his hand. He's slated for a centerfield role moving forward and projects to stick there, in my opinion. In terms of the bat, this is where I differ from some folks.
Clark's hit tool is legit. He's shown a polished hit tool on the circuit and had a monster spring during the prep season in Indiana. Certainly no question about his abilities to hit at the prep level. He has to make the jump into a pro organization, likely starting down in Lakeland on the backfields and into Single-A as he gets acclimated to affiliate ball.
There's been plenty of power projection from people anticipating that it's a centerfielder who will bring both speed, power, and tons of upside in all areas of the game. Some have referred to him as the next Corbin Carroll, and other comps such as Byron Buxton, Julio Rodriguez, and Mookie Betts.
For me, pump the brakes on that. I'm trying not to be the "Negative Nancy" here, but those comparisons require elite player development to really get Clark's tools to that next level as he gets into the pro organization. I am not sold that Detroit can do that, nor am I sold on the power being there in affiliate ball.
Clark is going to be a big-leaguer; he's going to be an MLB player down the road; the question is where is the floor and where is the ceiling with his abilities. The top has been placed pretty high in the pre-draft goings, but the floor was not really established.
I think Clark's got less power upside than that and is going to have his defense carry the weight of his profile with a hit-tool that could wind up being pretty good if he's able to get into affiliate ball and hit through the levels on his road to Detroit.
Frankly, I'm just not sold on the crazy high-ceiling comps that Clark has drawn. That being said, if we rewind the clock to draft day, I was hopeful the Tigers would land any one of those top five talents over Clark. I was hoping for Wyatt Langford, which pains me to see him left on the board, but I'm trying to embrace the upside with Clark without letting the worries take over.
Perhaps my biggest concern is that Clark will have to be developed. He's a prep player; he's 18 years old. He's going to go through an adjustment period jumping into the big-league organization, and then the Tigers player development staff is going to have to be trusted to really extract that top-tier potential out of him.
It's been 24 hours since the Tigers drafted him. I'm not here to say he's a bust, not here to say he was the worst pick, and not here to drag him through the mud. But, I would have rather had Langford, and I am not 100% sold on him being the next Mookie Betts, or player of that caliber, for that matter.