The University of Michigan has produced at least one top-three-round MLB draft pick in each of the last three years. The Wolverines are one of the top programs in college baseball, and this season, expectations are high once again.
One of the top players to watch on this year’s Michigan roster is junior outfielder Clark Elliott. The Illinois native has been a starter for Michigan the last two years and has made major strides throughout his collegiate career.
Scouts have noticed Elliott’s development over the last 2½ years and project him as a potential early-round pick in the 2022 MLB draft.
“It is one of the goals you have as kid,” Elliott said. “You play baseball to be a big leaguer. For me, I go through all of this stuff and just think of how blessed I am. Many guys would love to be in my shoes, whether that’s playing in the Cape Cod League or being in scout meetings. I am just so thankful every day that I get to do this.”
Elliott has been a regular in Michigan’s lineup in his first two years. He hit .245 with one double, two triples and seven RBIs in 53 at-bats in 15 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Last year, Elliott performed well, hitting .270 with nine doubles, five home runs and 22 RBIs in 152 at-bats in 43 games. He showed notable plate discipline, posting 34 strikeouts and 30 walks.
Elliott stood out this summer, winning the batting title in the prestigious Cape Cod League. He hit .344 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and eight RBIs in 90 at-bats in 24 games.
Elliott is a 5-foot-11, 183-pound outfielder who is more of a gap-to-gap hitter from the left side of the plate. The line-drive hitter understands how to work counts and draw walks. Although he doesn’t hit for much power right now, Elliott has the skills and potential to hit for more power in the future.
Right now, his hitting ability, understanding of the strike zone and speed are his best attributes.
“A big thing for me in the offseason was fine-tuning the strengths I have,” Elliott said. “My pitch recognition and the quality contact I put on the ball are my biggest strength. This spring, I want to start driving the ball to the opposite field gaps more.”
Elliott came to Michigan as a shortstop and was always a middle infielder growing up. But when Michigan starting right fielder Jesse Franklin broke his collarbone due to a freak skiing accident, Elliott moved to the outfield.
Elliott has played all of his games at Michigan in right field. In the summer, he gained experience in center field, playing 15 games at the position in the Cape Cod League.
This spring, Michigan State graduate transfer Joe Stewart will likely play center field for Michigan. Elliott is comfortable in all three outfield spots and has the tools to play center field long-term, even if he does play in right field this season.
“I am comfortable playing any outfield spot,” Elliott said. “Each game I am getting more comfortable. It gives me a lot of confidence seeing that improvement. Obviously, there was a learning curve because it was a new position. But I feel very confident.”
Elliott joined the Michigan program right after the Wolverines finished as the College World Series runner-up in 2019. The postseason run excited Elliott, who committed to Michigan due to its strong academics and athletics.
Michigan played 15 games in Elliott’s freshman year, as the season ended prematurely due to the pandemic. Last season, the Wolverines posted a 27-19 mark and qualified for the NCAA tournament.
After not advancing out of a regional last year, the Wolverines believe they have the pieces and the mindset to return to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, this spring.
“The expectation isn’t to just make a regional,” Elliott said. “It’s to win a regional and get to the College World Series. We are here to win Big Ten championships, regionals and make big runs in the playoffs. We are never satisfied.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.