Slade Caldwell had a memorable junior season for Valley View (Ark.) High School in 2023. He was a two-way player, with scouts raving especially about his skill set as a position player.
Caldwell, an outfielder, hit .512 with five home runs, 31 RBIs, 54 runs scored, 40 stolen bases and 40 walks. His success earned him the 2023 Gatorade Arkansas Baseball Player of the Year.
He continued to excel on the summer showcase circuit until breaking his fibula during the USA Baseball 18-and-under trials in August. Now, Caldwell is healthy and motivated to build on last year’s success in his final prep season this spring. Talent evaluators consider Caldwell one of the country’s best players in the 2024 prep class.
“Winning that award as a young guy definitely opened up my eyes to more opportunities and that I need to compete even more this senior year to be better,” Caldwell said.
A strong senior season will assist Caldwell as he prepares to take the next step in his baseball career after graduating high school. Caldwell is committed to playing baseball collegiately at Ole Miss. He also is a potential first-round pick in July’s MLB draft, meaning he could have the option to jump straight into pro ball this summer.
“Having options is a blessing,” Caldwell said. “I know I have to get better every day because I know there are guys out there who are working just as hard or harder than me. I’m just trying to stay on my path and get better every day.”
Caldwell is a 5-foot-9, 185-pound left-handed hitting outfielder known for his advanced hitting ability and excellent athleticism. He is a top-of-the-order hitter with a quick swing and a mature approach who drives the ball into the gaps and displays improving power potential.
Caldwell’s above-average speed and quality instincts allow him to create havoc on the bases. He is a quality base stealer and can stretch a base hit into extra bases.
“I take pride in being a table setter,” Caldwell said. “It is one of the most fun things to watch in baseball. You always want something going at all times to try to keep teams off-guard.”
Defensively, Caldwell profiles as a center fielder in pro ball. He is a quality defensive player with a notable toolset. He covers plenty of ground due to his speed and instincts. As he focuses on refining his skills, Caldwell wants to continue to improve his arm strength.
“I think I can stay in center field,” Caldwell said. “But if they move me to a corner, I’m really comfortable there. My reads off the bat and the way I approach center fields with players’ swings, I think center field is probably the best place for me.”
After high school, Caldwell will have the option to start a pro career or honor his commitment to Ole Miss. Caldwell started receiving NCAA Division I recruiting interest in middle school. He considered Ole Miss, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. He verbally committed to Ole Miss before playing a high school baseball game.
Caldwell’s connection to the Ole Miss coaching staff and the staff’s history of developing winning teams and talent for pro ball factored into his college commitment.
“The coaching staff and their track record of success played a big factor in my decision,” Caldwell said. “Seeing them recently win a national championship and them consistently producing players for pro ball, I thought it was better for me to go there.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 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.