Slade Wilks thrived against elite talent on the high school showcase circuit this past summer.
Wilks competed in the Under Armour All-American Game, East Coast Pro Showcase and the Perfect Game All-American Classic. A plethora of scouts were on hand for all three events, allowing them to evaluate Wilks for the upcoming MLB draft.
Despite the large crowd of scouts, Wilks didn’t feel pressure to perform. That experience this summer gave him confidence and caused him to consider himself as one of the top prep players in the country, he said. The experience also will aid him his senior season this spring when scouts flock to his hometown of Columbia, Mississippi to observe him in preparation for June’s draft.
If Wilks can show consistency with his skills this spring, he will have a chance at being selected in the first five rounds of June’s draft.
“It’s not pressure at all for me,” he said. “This summer with all of the scouts took the pressure for the high school season away because there were times I was playing and there were 200 scouts there this summer. I got used to that after a few games. I shouldn’t be worried about the scouts, I believe.”
Wilks is an offensive-first player. He hits from the left side of the plate with an open stance and deep hand load. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound third baseman/outfielder consistently barrels up pitches and has above-average power due to his strong athletic build.
“I would say I am a good hitter with a lot of power to all fields,” Wilks said. “I pride myself on being able to hit the ball a long ways to all parts of the field.”
This offseason, Wilks is working on his defense. It also is an area he wants to improve by the time of the draft begins. Wilks plays third base for his high school team but has appeared mostly in left field and right field on the showcase circuit. He also has some experience playing center field for his high school squad.
At the next level, scouts believe Wilks is destined for a corner outfield spot. He has a strong arm and is a respectable runner. Wilks is dedicating a significant amount of his time this offseason to improving his arm strength and agility in the outfield, he said. Wilks is building up his arm strength through resistance band work and long toss, he added.
“I have the potential to have a plus arm in the outfield,” Wilks said. “I am really working towards that because I know it’s in there. I just need to work on it and do some extra things. Really, I’m just trying to do everything I can to be as good of a player as I can be because that’s all that matters.”
His high school team, Columbia Academy, is already practicing in anticipation of the season beginning in mid-February, Wilks said. Scouts will have their sights set on Wilks, who has the makings of being a five-tool player, as they prepare for the MLB draft.
Wilks is committed to Southern Mississippi. There’s a chance he will bypass that opportunity and embark on a professional career. If he opts to attend Southern Mississippi, he could reenter the draft as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2022.
Although the next six months are critical for Wilks and determining his next step in his baseball career, he’s trying to ignore the attention. Instead, he’s focused on his team’s success and developing his skills, he said.
“I find my identity throughout this whole process with Jesus Christ because without him, none of this would be possible,” said Wilks on his baseball talent and the decision he will face in June.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.