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2023 MLB Draft 1st Round Primer: The Commits

These four are the ones you will learn about now, and then forget about almost immediately. If any of the four end up in Gangster Pajamas—especially the first 3—consider it a miracle.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

*The 2023 MLB Draft takes place on Sunday July 9th through Tuesday July 11th. In the coming days, I will give you Vanderbilt centric primers of the current players and prospects, and my best guesses at where they are likely to be drafted. With the commits, I will also hazard my best guess at the probability they will eschew the MLB Bonus money and suit up in gangster pajamas in 2023. Today, we look at the commits likely never to play at The Hawk. If you want to know about current players: Click here for the possible first rounders.

Before I begin, note that the four players profiled below are believed to be either chosen in the first round, or chosen later but offered first round money. Either way, the likelihood any ends up a Diamond Dore is exceedingly low.

That said, I might as well let you know about them, because we have gotten the occasional Tyler Beede type—someone who claims they will go to Vanderbilt if MLB teams don’t meet or exceed their bonus demands—in the past. Hell, we’ve been much better than pretty much all college baseball programs at this.

Commits Who Might Hear Their Name Called on Day One (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A):

OF Max Clark Prospect Ranking: #5

Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 70 | Arm: 65 | Field: 60 | Overall: 60

Clark is the best prospect to come out of Indiana since Bryan Bullington went No. 1 overall in 2002 and the state’s best prepster ever. Gatorade’s National Baseball Player of the Year, he’s a viable candidate for the Pirates with the top pick. Besides his physical ability, he has excellent makeup and a penchant for rising to the occasion, such as when he provided a clutch homer against Canada and three hits in the gold medal-winning game against Taiwan at the 18-and-under World Cup in September.

Clark has four tools that grade as at least plus, starting with his hitting ability, which some evaluators rate as plus-plus. He has a sweet left-handed swing and a mature approach that focuses on smoking line drives from gap to gap. He presently concentrates on making hard contact rather than launching balls, but his bat speed and projectable strength should translate into at least 20-homer power that he already hints at in batting practice.

Clark is a double-plus runner and his quickness makes him an asset on the bases and in the outfield. The Vanderbilt is a no-doubt center fielder who enhances his physical ability with his reads and routes. He also has a well above-average arm that produces fastballs clocked up to 97 mph when he takes the mound.

ESPN+ Prospect Ranking: #5

Hit: 30/60, Power: 30/50, Speed: 65/65, Field: 50/55, Throw: 60/60

Not to be outdone, Clark has been right there with Jenkins for years at the top of this class and is a near coin flip in these rankings. Clark is a different type of player, with electric speed and a compact frame with shades of a bigger version of Corbin Carroll. One scout called him “Johnny Damon with a plus arm.” Clark will rank 29th on my minor league prospect list once he signs.

Range: Top 5 (and highly unlikely to drop below 5). Current Mock Draft: #4 to the Texas Rangers.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: #4 to the Texas Rangers.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. Yeah, he’s not getting out of the top 5. In a normal draft, he’s 1-1. This is not a normal top of the draft. Whatever your expectations were for Andruw Jones, Jr. last year should be your expectations regarding Clark ever suiting up for Corbs. It’s just not going to happen.

LHP Thomas White Prospect Ranking: #24

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50

There has never been a high school left-hander from Massachusetts taken in the first round of the Draft and the last time a prep pitcher of any kind from the Bay State went in the opening round was back in 2011, when the Blue Jays took Tyler Beede, who instead headed to Vanderbilt. White has at times been tough to scout as he’s been picky about which events to attend, but he did show what the fuss has been about both in PDP League and East Coast Pro Showcase action this past summer before taking a nice step forward this spring.

White checks off a lot of boxes in terms of his size, he’s 6-foot-5, his pure stuff and his left-handedness. He was up to 96-97 mph with his fastball over the summer, missing bats with it up in the zone. He couples it with what could be a plus curveball, thrown with high spin rates in the upper-70s. He doesn’t throw it as much yet, but he showed off enough low-80s changeups to give a sense that he’s going to have a very good three-pitch mix in the future.

Everything works well in terms of White’s delivery, and though he did struggle with his command at times over the summer because all of his moving parts can get out of sync, he was repeating well this spring and improved strike-throwing has led to some helium. There’s little question he’s the best prep lefty in the country, one who’ll likely have to go early to not follow in Beede’s footsteps and fulfill his commitment to Vanderbilt.

ESPN+ Prospect Ranking: #25

Fastball: 50/60, Curveball: 50/60, Changeup: 50/60, Command: 35/50

White was famous as a freshman in high school, into the low 90’s as a projectable lefty with three pitches. I first scouted him more than two years ago and he was up to 95 mph. In the last year, he basically hasn’t strung together five good starts in a row, usually due to command, with scouts wondering if it will always be an issue for the 6-foot-5 left-hander. As a former Braves scout I’m getting Sean Newcomb flashbacks. When he’s on, there are three plus pitches and he looks like a big leaguer at age 18. The industry vibe is he’ll be someone’s second pick for $3-plus million like Brock Porter was last year.

Range: Back half of the First Round (or at least likely to get a bonus offer in that range). Current Mock Draft: #25 to the San Diego Padres.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: N/A.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. If a team meets his number, he’s gone. We expect at least one to meet it before the 2nd round is up, at the very latest.

SS George Lombard, Jr. Prospect Ranking: #31

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50

George Lombard was an exciting high school product in the Atlanta area who was taken by his hometown team, the Braves, in the second round of the 1994 Draft and went on to play parts of six big league seasons in a 16-year professional career. Now the bench coach for the Detroit Tigers, he’ll get to see if his son can beat his Draft spot as Lombard Junior showed off some intriguing tools on the summer showcase circuit and took a solid step forward in South Florida this spring.

The younger Lombard already looks the part at 6-foot-3 with a pro body that stands out among high school players. The right-handed hitter has a ton of raw pop to tap into and he showed it off at times last summer, though it came with some swing-and-miss concerns and some inconsistent at-bats along the way. Lombard has a long stride and is better runner underway, but he’s worked to improve his overall speed.

There’s some debate over where he lands defensively. While some would send him out as a shortstop, where he does show off a strong arm, good instincts and hands, most see an eventual move to third as he fills out that frame. That might put more pressure on the bat, but the power profile might fit there just fine. Teams will have to decide if they want to take Lombard early enough to keep him from heading to Vanderbilt, where he could develop into a first-rounder in a few years.

ESPN+ Prospect Ranking: #27

Hit: 30/55, Power: 30/50, Speed: 55/55, Field: 40/50, Throw: 55/55

It’s not quite Andruw Jones, Matt Holliday, or Carl Crawford from last summer’s first round, but Lombard Jr. also has big league bloodlines from his father. Lombard isn’t a slam dunk shortstop, with many scouts projecting him to second or third base, but they love his makeup and think he’s one of the safest bets to hit in this prep position player class.

Range: Back half of the First Round (or at least likely to get a bonus offer in that range). There’s just too much smoke about too many back of the first round teams falling in love with this guy for there to be no fire there. Current Mock Draft: #29 to the Seattle Mariners.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: #27 to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. Again, if you hear his name in the first round (or even within the top 10 rounds), it means a team has met his asking price and he’s gone.

LHP Alex Clemmey Prospect Ranking: #50

Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 40 | Overall: 50

The last time a Rhode Island high-schooler was taken in the top five rounds of the Draft was back in 2008, when the Red Sox gave outfielder Ryan Westmoreland $2 million to sign. It’s been since 2004 that a prep pitcher from the state went that early (Jay Rainville was a supplemental first-rounder), though the Reds did go over slot to take Ben Brutti in Round 11 last year. As things warmed up in Little Rhody, scouts streamed in to see Clemmey, a big lefty with plenty of arm strength that gives him the chance to go early in this year’s Draft.

There is no doubt about Clemmey’s electric stuff, all coming from a 6-foot-6 frame. The southpaw has been up to 98-99 mph with a fastball that features elite-level spin rates and ride up in the zone. He has a swing-and-miss slurvy breaking ball with sweepy late tilt that has curve tendencies in the 79-82 mph zone and feels more like a slider when it’s a bit harder. That leaves some scouts thinking he could have two distinct breaking pitches in the future. His upper-80s changeup serves almost like a baby sinker with enough differential from his heater to be effective.

While his stuff is comparable to almost any high-schooler in the class, inconsistencies in his delivery have led to command and control issues that have dampened excitement a little bit. It will be interesting to see whether his size, upside and first-round-caliber pure stuff will entice a team to take him early enough to sign him away from his commitment to Vanderbilt.

ESPN+ Prospect Ranking: #54

Clemmey has possibly the most electric stuff in the draft: up to 99 mph and a plus hook as a 6-foot-6, arms-and-legs lefty. He hasn’t quite corralled those limbs yet to throw regular strikes, but he’s also a northeast arm who is young for the class, so teams can imagine almost anything.

Range: Either the first 2 rounds, or a post round 11 flier (which would mean he’s likely ours). Current Mock Draft: N/A.

ESPN Current Mock Draft: N/A.

Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 80%. If he’s taken early, he’s gone. If he drops past round 11, it means no team has met his 1st round slot signing bonus demands, and he’ll be wearing gangster pajamas in the fall.