Prep Baseball Report

2023 PBR Player of the Year

By Andy Sroka
Managing Editor, Scouting

How often does it live up to the hype?

Rarely, if ever. Yet, the No. 1-ranked senior on Prep Baseball Report’s Class of 2023 rankings, Max Clark, dialed up all of the starpower he’s collected as a high school athlete and he shined brighter than anyone this past spring for Franklin Community High School, shouldering the pressure from dozens of onlooking pro scouts each game day all the while.

Max Clark OF / Franklin Community, IN / 2023

Report from the PBR Super 60 (2/5/23): "When you are the No. 1 player in the country, and a presumptive top-10 pick, the analysis of the Super 60 has to start with you. [Clark] had little to prove at the 21st annual PBR Super 60 in Chicago, but showed up ready to put a revamped swing on display in front of the more than 100-plus MLB scouts including numerous scouting directors and cross-checkers. The biggest change to Clark’s setup, and one that is undeniably noticeable, is how low the hands are now sitting... As usual, there was easy explosion off the bat with minimal effort as he stayed behind the baseball without much head movement. It was a simple couple of rounds with the look of 'just getting warm' that still yielded a max exit velocity of 102.1 mph and max distance of 388 feet. Obviously it has been well documented by PBR that Clark is an elite athlete, and this look did nothing to dissuade that. Instead, it was a quality showing by a premium prospect who is still over six weeks away from game action, and who provided an inside look into his willingness to lift an already premium set of tools to new heights. The end result of his winter off-season work is likely to yield bountiful results come May." – Shooter Hunt

Clark’s presence and persona on social media has made him a viral prep star. He’s bold and boisterous, but neither arrogant nor pompous. It’s a narrow line to walk, but Clark confidently walked it through his four years of high school, garnering more and more and more attention along the way.

He proudly values the responsibility his fame online forged as a role model to athletes even younger than he is, his relationship with the Franklin, Ind., community he calls home, and he still found the time to complete his high school academic career with a 3.97 GPA.

This is to say that Clark constructed his own lofty expectations, and it seems as if he holds himself to higher standards than even his fans and critics, and the latter come in bunches in this social media-dominated era.

So, when Clark’s draft spring finally arrived, things felt a little different now that he was finally on the brink of beginning his professional career. Clark, who is a Vanderbilt recruit, seemed bound to take the high school-to-pro ball route in 2023 for much of his prep career. In our first edition  of the Class of 2023 rankings way back in November of 2019, Clark debuted at No. 25 overall, then he rose to No. 2 a year later, and he stayed right there until earning the No. 1 spot in August of 2022, the spot he's occupied since. That tracked with the pro scouting community, which had begun to consider him a candidate to be the first player selected in the ‘23 MLB Draft, the prize the Pittsburgh Pirates eventually won via the first-ever MLB Draft Lottery last December.

Before he began his final high school spring season, he made his way to the PBR Super 60 which helped ring in the '23 draft circuit. He made an expectedly flashy entrance wearing pink turf shoes while swinging a loud, bright pink wood bat with which he made even louder contact, reaching a max exit velocity of 102.1 mph that day.

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Max Clark (2/5/23)

But in between the lottery and the first round of the MLB Draft sat the Indiana spring high school baseball season, where Clark got off to a roaring start. He went 7-for-8 in his team’s opening weekend of action, recording four extra-base hits, including his first home run of the season. PBR Indiana named him the state’s Player of the Week following week two play, after he went 11-for-14 in total with nine RBIs and another four extra-base knocks, and his performance early on in the spring didn’t really fluctuate as the season progressed – Clark did what he does.

Clark brushed off antagonistic opponents eager to tell the story one day about how they struck him out back in their own high school heydays, considering he K’d just five times in 2023, bringing his total to eight combined in his junior and senior springs. Over that same two-year stretch, Clark slugged 15 home runs, nearly twice as many as the punch-outs he tallied, and six of them came this past spring amid the 52 walks he was dealt. He was surely walked intentionally, or simply pitched around, in the majority of his at-bats as a senior, but he damaged pitches in the zone with regularity.

At spring’s end, Clark finished his senior season with a gaudy slashline of .646/.808/1.125, as well as an OPS of 2.023. He amassed 45 runs, 33 RBIs, as well as 21 extra-base hits and 35 stolen bases. Even as all of those aforementioned walks suppressed some of his counting stats, Clark still managed to make the utmost of the times his opposition dared to enter his strike zone. For the second straight season, PBR Indiana named him their Player of the Year, and now he’s the PBR’s national Player of the Year as well, adding to the lengthy list of accolades he’s accumulated over the years, but especially recently.

Having entered the spring at the very top of the class, it’s a difficult task to maintain and deliver the heroic expectations Clark stepped onto the diamond with – in some ways, you can only go down from the spot atop the board – but Franklin's prep superstar withstood the threat to his claim as the best high school prospect in this year’s MLB Draft and he went on to become the first prep selected, going No. 3 overall to the Detroit Tigers.

He looks destined to follow in the footsteps of PBR Player of the Year winners who went on to sign their first professional contract straight out of high school. The 2022 winner, Jackson Holliday, has been a sensation in pro ball already, having just earned yet another promotion ahead of schedule, this time to Double-A Bowie less than a year since he was drafted. Holliday has managed to surpass the hype he entered Baltimore’s organization with, to this point anyway. 

Clark is headed to Detroit with a level of fame he cultivated online and backed up on diamonds all over the nation, and even on the world stage. The hype was, and remains, warranted. And I expect that he’ll live up to it in Detroit, but no one expects that with a greater level of certainty than Clark himself.


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