Pirates Draft Prospects: Max Clark is a High Upside Bat to Watch

Our weekly spotlight of 2023 draft prospects began with a closer look at LSU outfielder Dylan Crews, who many people have as the top prospect in this draft class. We then moved on to Chase Dollander, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Tennessee. Our third profile article looked at high school outfielder Walker Jenkins. That was followed by LSU pitcher Paul Skenes. Here’s our draft preview article in case you missed it.

Today’s player is Max Clark, who was put off until today because his high school team got a much later start than everyone else covered here. In fact, today is their season opener, which worked out perfectly. Clark has played a scrimmage game that got some attention recently, with three walks followed by a long home run.

Clark turned 18 years old back in December, making him slightly older for his draft class, but not bad. It’s off-set a lot by the fact that he plays in Indiana, where the baseball season is much shorter. He’s 6’1″, 190 pounds, throwing/batting lefty. He has a commitment to Vanderbilt.

Starting with MLB Pipeline, they grade his power the lowest of his tools and it’s still a 50 grade. His hitting is a 60 grade, as is his fielding. His two best tools are a 65 arm and a 70 for speed, giving him four plus tools. If he keeps hitting like he is in the video above, that 50 grade for power could go up.

Pipeline says that he’s a viable pick for the Pirates at first overall. They note that some scouts rate his hitting higher than them, as he shows a mature approach at the plate, with a line drive swing that drives the ball gap-to-gap. He’s a high contact hitter, who they think could run into 20 homers a year with his approach.

His running speed makes him a double threat on the bases and in the outfield, where they consider him a no doubt center fielder. They also say his fastball has reached 97 MPH, giving him an outstanding outfield arm.

Baseball America rates Clark fifth overall in this draft class, one spot ahead of his placement on the Pipeline list. They praise all of his tools, starting with his bat, calling him one of the best pure hitters in this draft class. They like his quick, compact swing, his strike zone discipline and his hand-eye coordination, noting that he rarely swings and misses. They note the line drive approach, saying that power hasn’t translated to games yet. They agree with all of the defensive/running assessments previously mentioned.

Fangraphs has him rated the highest in fourth place. They talk highly of his bat, with the same high contact/all fields talk, along with noting that he won’t be a 30-homer guy, but he should still show some power. They aren’t quite as sold on the defense, nothing that his speed makes up for rawness in center field. The other two sources are sold on him staying in center. They say that some scouts think he lacks the overall value to go top three in this draft class.

Clark is just starting his season, but he’s also starting from a very high point in this draft class. It would take much improvements for him to go from that 4-6 range to the 1-3 range. Fangraphs seemed to have the least impressive report on him and they ranked him fourth, so that tells you that he’s a special bat, with tools for days. Even if he ends up as a guy who maxes out at 15-20 homers, you’re getting a high on base hitter, with outstanding speed and strong defense/ cannon for an arm.

Here’s a video from last year courtesy of Prospect Pipeline

Here’s a Baseball America video

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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His contact skills sound similar to last year and Termarr.


Clark is not an improvement over Crews, Langford and Skenes. And, as a prep player, he carries greater risk than a college player, all other things being equal. I’d go with Crews.


He is if you’re looking at their prep profiles, but at the same time, is there really more upside to Clark’s three-year projection than present day Crews? That would be scary, no?

W/r/t risk, we can just pair their respective bonus amounts after they sign to determine an appropriate discount rate.


It would be a tough sell to take him first overall with what Crews and Skenes are doing, especially since he has more negotiating leverage as a prep player, but it looks like whoever gets him is probably gonna get a really good ballplayer.

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