Max Clark is the country’s No. 1 high school baseball player in the 2023 class. The Franklin Community (Ind.) High School product is an advanced all-around player with no glaring flaws in his game.
Many high-end prep athletes with college and professional aspirations have started to specialize in their primary sport instead of being multi-sport athletes. Clark isn’t the typical student-athlete, though.
Clark has participated in multiple sports throughout high school. He played football, basketball and baseball as an underclassman before focusing on football and baseball for the last two years. He believes playing multiple sports has helped him become the elite baseball player he is today.
“I think the specialization is completely wrong,” Clark said. “Don’t get me wrong, if you want to specialize, I will support that, but there are so many opportunities you are missing to becoming a better athlete. I think the best athletes play multiple sports because they use every muscle in their body while also giving the ones they don’t use a break in that season.”
Even though he is a multi-sport prep star, Clark’s future is on the baseball diamond. The left-handed hitting center fielder is a five-tool player and is in the mix to go first overall in the 2023 MLB draft.
He has dedicated countless hours to refining his craft. As he prepares for his senior season, Clark lifts weights eight times per week, in addition to spending about 15 hours in the batting cage and about four hours doing mobility and sprint work.
Clark has been on the radar of professional scouts since his freshman year. He has increased his profile over the last four years to give himself a chance to start a pro career straight out of high school. His dedication, skill set and humble approach will likely pay off when the draft rolls around in July.
“Everybody as a 5-year-old wanted to be a professional athlete,” Clark said. “For my first project in kindergarten, we had to write on a dry-erase laminate piece of paper, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I wrote, ‘MLB baseball player.’ Those are the little things that come back to me and looking full circle amazes me.”
Clark can do it all on the baseball field. He also has tremendous makeup. He is confident in his ability but is humble and wants to serve as a role model for young baseball players.
Clark is a 6-foot-1, 198-pound left-handed hitter with an advanced approach at the plate. He uses a quick and compact swing that allows him to drive the ball to all parts of the field effortlessly. He also understands the strike zone and rarely swings and misses.
In pro ball, Clark projects to hit for average and above-average power while using his athleticism and speed to be disruptive on the bases.
“My mental game and passion are next level,” Clark said. “My pitch recognition and bat-to-ball skills are next level. When I need it, those things always show up and I can count on it. All those things are huge to my game and make everything else a lot easier.”
Clark credits his quality swing mechanics and mentality at the plate to his hitting coach Mike Shirley, who is the Chicago White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting and operates The Barn training facility in Anderson, Indiana.
Shirley has helped develop numerous players who went on to have pro careers. Clark started working with Shirley five years ago when he was 13 years old.
This offseason, Shirley has helped Clark make a mechanical swing adjustment. During the summer showcase circuit, the lower half of Clark’s swing was slightly out of sync, resulting in him dropping his hands and hitting a higher percentage of ground balls.
Shirley and Clark tweaked his hitting mechanics, and Clark believes it will allow him to achieve even more success during his senior season.
“Once I stay in my swing and get my best swing off every time, it is going to be a very dangerous game,” Clark said. “I’m very excited to see how this plays out in high school because it is a new unlocked level that I didn’t know I had in myself. I’m excited for people to see it.”
Defensively, Clark has elite speed, runs quality routes and has excellent instincts in center field. He also possesses above-average arm strength, previously pitching for his high school team and reaching the mid-90s with his fastball. Clark will stick in center field long-term.
Scouts will flock to Franklin, Indiana, to watch Clark this spring in preparation for the draft. Last season, Clark hit .577 with nine home runs, 31 walks and three strikeouts in 106 plate appearances as a junior.
Besides his status as a pro prospect, Clark is a Vanderbilt University commit. He verbally committed to Vanderbilt during the first semester of his freshman year in 2019 due to the university’s strong academics and the baseball program’s coaching staff, player development and winning tradition.
“They farm success, and I want to be successful,” Clark said. “That is a very, very good point that is looking for a college because you don’t get better than Vanderbilt.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.