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High School | General | 5/5/2021

Summer Preview: 2023 Outfielders

Drew Wesolowski        
Photo: TayShaun Walton (Perfect Game)
As high school baseball is starting to get going across the country in most regions, with some states actually heading into the playoffs, it all means the summer circuit is right around the corner. Over the next several weeks we will look at the top-ranked players at each position, in each class, while also taking a look at some gut-feel players that could be big risers. With players having more access to individual development, things will undoubtably change at a rapid pace in the early months of the Perfect Game schedule. This provides a good look at some of the top performers coming into 2021 who look primed to continue dominance or make their mark on a national level. 

Class of 2022: Catchers | Corner Infield | Middle Infield | Outfielders
Class of 2023: Catchers | Corner Infield | Middle Infield
Class of 2024: Catchers | Corner Infield | Middle Infield
Class of 2025: Catchers | Corner Infield | Middle Infield


Maxwell Clark (Ind.)
Commitment: Vanderbilt
PG Events: 2
Key Stats: .375 AVG / 1.000 OPS

Short Story: Clark stands out as one of the most physically advanced as he is full of fast-twitch muscle. The combination of athleticism with hand-eye coordination sets him far apart from any other outfielder in the class. The smooth cut from the left-side is already showing as polished and he projects even more power down the road.

Big Moment: We haven’t seen much of Clark at past PG events but you can look to one that helped propel him to the top of the rankings. His performance last fall at the World Championships was a statement. He hit .375 with a pair of doubles as he solidified himself against some of the top arms in the country, many of which were a couple years older.

Bold Prediction: The Vandy commit is on a fast track to becoming one of the most tooled-up players in the entire class. Look for him to continue to rake in the biggest of moments. It wouldn’t be far off to say that he is going to generate a ton of interest from professional eyes here in a few years.
 


TayShaun Walton (Va.)
Commitment: Miami
PG Events: 39
Key Stats: .368 AVG / 28 EBH / 76 RBI in 296 AB

Short Story: Walton showcases himself as one of the top pure athletes in the entire class. He stands at 6-foot-3 and is north of 225 pounds but runs like a deer. We’ve seen him run sub-6.9 second 60s and he put it to good use on the paths as he has stolen almost 100 bags in his PG career. Light tower power in the box as well, making him one of the most coveted prospects in the entire ’23 class.

Big Moment: It’s no easy pick here as Walton seems to show up and dominate at every stop on the circuit. If you are to try and narrow it down, I think you would lean toward his performance at the Jr. National Showcase last June. He took one of the most professional rounds of batting practice while also showing he could drive it over the left-center wall with a flick of the wrist. He also stood out from a metrics standpoint as he recorded an exit velocity over 100 mph. Was named to the Top Prospect Team and received a grade of a perfect 10.

Bold Prediction: The sky is the limit for Walton as he has a ton of upside. The power he generates in the box is already next-level ready and who knows, by the end of his prep career he could be one of the top prep guys taken in the draft. It’s going to be fun to watch him progress in the next couple years but look for him to keep destroying baseballs and stealing bags.
 


Walker Jenkins (N.C.)
Commitment: North Carolina
PG Events: 24
Key Stats: .376 AVG / 1.085 OPS in 194 AB

Short Story: Jenkins is your prototypical young prospect who still has immense upside. The left-handed stroke is violent, and he goes about his business in a loud way. You can’t overlook the real estate he covers in the outfield either as he is a sub-6.8 second 60 runner and he has an absolute cannon of an arm as he throws it in the low-90s to bags. He shows little-to-no weakness in any part of his game.

Big Moment: At first glance, his performances this past fall in Florida were phenomenal. He played in all three WWBA World Championships and hit over .300 in each as he picked up all-tourney honors in each event. His performance from a month or two before that at the ’23 All-American Games is what really put him on the map. He took by far the best round of batting practice from the event as he sprayed the baseball over the fence to all fields. He also ran that sub-6.8 60 that was previously mentioned. That round of batting practice will live in infamy for years to come.

Bold Prediction: It’s hard to predict where Jenkins is headed because the hit tool is so far advanced for the age. We have seen others in the past with similar numbers and those have gone on to be first round draft picks. It’s not just the bat though, as he has speed and a strong arm to go with it. Look for him to continue to grind and separate himself even further as one of the top prospects in the entire class.
 


Christian Rodriguez (Fla.)
Uncommitted
PG Events: 25
Key Stats: .448 AVG / 30 EBH / 69 RBI in 183 AB

Short Story: Rodriguez is one of the top two-way prospects in the class and let’s be honest, you can put him anywhere on the field and his athleticism will shine through. He sports one of the fastest arms you will see at this age as he runs his fastball up into the low-90s on the bump. The bat is just as advanced as he finds barrels with every cut while driving it on a line into the gaps.

Big Moment: He has long had a strong track record at past PG events as he has been a part of back-to-back Select Fest Games. Instead of trying to pick one certain event, it is best to just point toward his total stat line in past events. In 238 plate appearances, he has 30 extra-base hits and has scored almost 100 runs. His OPS is just over 1.250 as well. On the mound, he has struck out 119 while walking just 33 in 76 2/3 innings of work. Mighty impressive numbers on both sides of the spectrum.

Bold Prediction: Many will speculate that he will need to decide if he wants to pitch or be a hitter. I think you scrap that way of thinking and continue to grind on both sides of the ball. He possesses enough skill to be a legit two-way guy at the next level and it will start to show even more as he ages in his prep career. For now, look for him to have another standout summer.
 

Derrick Mitchell (Texas)
Commitment: Arizona State
PG Events: 31
Key Stats: .323 AVG / 48 RBI / 189 AB

Short Story: Mitchell is one of the most premier switch-hitters in all of prep baseball, regardless of age. His hand-eye coordination stands out in a big way as he drops the bat head on the baseball and then glides on the paths. The speed translates into the outfield as he covers a ton of ground while tracking down fly balls. Not only can he hit, he is also a premier athlete.

Big Moment: We saw his numbers down a bit in ’20 but that was more than likely due to being a bit rusty from Covid. If you look closely, you can see his past year performances have been very strong. In his PG career, he has hit .323 with 20 extra-base knocks in 189 at-bats. He continuously shows up in even the most defining moments.

Bold Prediction: Look for Mitchell to continue to grind from an offensive standpoint as he will look to continue to produce from both sides of the dish. With his skill set, you can count on him to continue to be a standout for years to come.
 

Owen Egan (Calif.)
Commitment: UCLA
PG Events: 20
Key Stats: .313 AVG / .909 OPS / 80 AB

Short Story: Egan consistently shows up every weekend as one of the top performers at any event he attends. He is physically mature for the age as he stands at a filled out 6-foot-1. He shows easy pop in the bat and may have one of the strongest arms in the class. We have seen him in the low-90s on the mound in the past.

Big Moment: His overall past numbers at PG events have been mighty impressive but if you look closer, his month-or-so stretch at the WWBA World Championships in ’20 was extremely impressive. In 20 at-bats, he hit .400 with an OPS over 1.000 as well. He was also dominant on the mound as he went 7 1/3 innings with six punchouts while not giving up a single run.

Bold Prediction: Look for him to continue to grind on both sides of the ball as he has legit potential to be a two-way guy at the next level. If he is to make the strides that most are thinking he will, you could see him climb even further up the rankings if he continues to perform.
 

Drew Burress (Ga.)
Uncommitted
PG Events: 60
Key Stats: .346 AVG / 89 XBH / 118 RBI / 515 AB

Short Story: Burress has long been known around the prep baseball circuit as one of the top prospects in the class. He shows plenty of fast-twitch muscle as he is a sub-7.0 60 runner and has power in the box as well. Has done nothing but hit at every stop on the circuit in the past.

Big Moment: It would be impossible to put your finger on one moment as Burress has had one of the most impressive careers of all other prospects in the class. As noted above, he is a career .346 hitter who has 53 doubles and 14 homers to his name. The speed on the paths is also evident as he has stolen 77 bags. The OPS over 1.000 in 500-plus at-bats speaks for itself as well.

Bold Prediction: Burress is a part of one of the top teams in the country and this will continue to push him forward and keep working. No doubt in my mind he will find a spot at the next level here sooner rather than later, as he possesses some of the most elite tools in his class. Look for ’21 to be his breakout year as he is coming off a hand injury last year that held him back a bit.
 

Justin Best (N.C.)
Commitment: Florida State
PG Events: 32
Key Stats: .385 AVG / 99 R / 1.110 OPS / 273 AB

Short Story: Best is one of the top pure athletes in the entire class as he sports a long, lean build standing at 6-foot-3. The coordination is already showing as most at this age aren’t well acquainted with their body. Make no mistake, he shows some of the best hand-eye coordination you will find in prep baseball. Big juice in the left-handed swing as he generates easy power as well.

Big Moment: His performance at the WWBA Sophomore World Championship in Fort Myers last fall will forever be stuck in my head. In 14 at-bats, he hit .643 as he seemed to find a barrel with every cut. You simply could not get him out. He had nine base hits on the week, including a double and a triple, as he sprayed it around and showed off his speed on the paths. He ended up receiving all-tourney honors as he carried his team to the semifinals.

Bold Prediction: What is most scary about Best is that he still has room to fill out in the lean frame. He already possesses a ton of power but it’s easy to think he will have even more down the road. Look for him to get stronger and start to donate more baseballs over the fence in upcoming years. Another thing to add to an already solid tool set.
 

John Cooper Williams (Ga.)
Commitment: Georgia Tech
PG Events: 62
Key Stats: .319 AVG / 104 SB / 103 RBI / 345 AB

Short Story: Williams has long been turning heads as he grabs your attention with eye-opening metric numbers. He throws it in the mid-90s from the outfield and swings it with pop in the box. Legit utility guy you can throw in any position on the field and watch him thrive. Don’t let the smaller frame fool you, Williams has some of the loudest tools in the class.

Big Moment: It would be easy to go ahead and point out Williams’ numbers from his entire career, which are remarkable, but I am going to point at a moment where he really took that next step. His performance at the ’23 All-American Games in his home state last fall was a coming-out moment for him. He cemented himself as one of the most elite prospects in his class. He ran a sub-6.9 60 and sprayed the baseball around in both batting practice and in games. His defensive workout was head and shoulders better than just about everyone in attendance as he threw it 94 mph during drills.

Bold Prediction: Look for him to continue to get stronger and faster as he matures with age. I think you will start to see more baseballs leave the yard in upcoming years as he already knows how to leverage the baseball. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see him be in the talks for the strongest arm strength in the class and you could possibly see some records set at the National Showcase for outfield velocity.
 


Dean West (Calif.)
Commitment: UCLA
PG Events: 11
Key Stats: .369 AVG / 29 R / .952 OPS / 65 AB

Short Story: West is one of the most agile prospects in the entire class as he is full of fast-twitch type muscle. He shows a very simple approach in the box as he gets the front foot down and fires the lower half. Generates easy bat speed as he has knack for finding barrels. Also a plus runner as he glides around the paths and has recorded 60s in the mid-6’s in the past.

Big Moment: Even though we have seen him in smaller sample sizes compared to others, he flat-out rakes every time we see him. I look to his standout performance being this past fall in Arizona at the National Championship (Upperclass). He hit .400 on the weekend with a double and three RBI as he proved he could square up even the best pitchers on the West Coast.

Bold Prediction: West has a ton of upside left and I still think we are going to see him make additional strides in the future. He has a solid foundation already to build on and with his skill set, I don’t see a reason to put any ceilings on him. He will continue to tear up the prep baseball circuit this summer and will continue to impress long down the road.

Gut Feels

Duce Robinson (Ariz.)
May be the most physically impressive prospect in all of the ‘23 class standing at 6-foot-6. Rips the cover off the baseball as he has hit .339 in all past events. With some mechanical clean-ups, he could make huge strides in the future.

AJ Gracia (N.J.)
The Duke commit just makes everything he does look easy. Possesses one of the smoothest cuts you will see in the class and has some juice in the bat. Sports a strong arm in the outfield and runs well for his size.

Ashton Larson (Kans.)
Some of the loudest barrels you will hear at this age. Big power in the left-handed stroke as he launches baseballs to deep parts of the park. The LSU commit has 31 RBI with an OPS of .820 in 134 career AB.

Michael Graziano (Fla.)
Legit makings of a 5-tool type prospect. A career .379 hitter in past PG events and has a .999 OPS. A sub-6.7 second 60 runner and has a cannon for an arm. Passes all the tests from an on-lookers perspective and has the metric numbers to back it up.

Cooper Milford (Ga.)
The Georgia commit has long been a standout on the prep baseball circuit. A career .387 hitter at past PG events with 123 runs scored in 323 at-bats. Covers a ton of ground in the outfield and has a strong arm to go with it.

Evan Haeger (Mich.)
Big power in the left-handed bat as he launches baseballs to the pull side. In 57 at-bats, he has an average of .368 and an OPS just shy of 1.250. A name from the state of Michigan you will be hearing more of this summer and going forward.

Zaid Diaz (Fla.)
Diaz may have some of the most pop pound-for-pound as any bat in the class. Has 35 career extra-base knocks with 80 RBI in his career at PG events. Although he plays other positions, look for him to convert to being a corner outfielder who flat-out rakes offensively.

Matthew Davis (Fla.)
Has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in his class. Rain or shine, the Florida State commit will find barrels for you. Has a career .341 average at past PG events. Look for him to fill out the frame and start to generate more power numbers down the road.

JT Kelenic (Wisc.)
The No. 1 outfielder in the state of Wisconsin is going to make some huge strides in upcoming years. Pop in the bat and more power to come down the road. A solid athlete and someone who will be make big jumps sooner rather than later.

Jet Gilliam (Nev.)
Gilliam is full of fast-twitch muscle as he plays a high-motor type game. 6.82 second 60 runner who covers a ton of real estate in the outfield. Quick stroke in the box as he sprays it on a line to all fields. Also knows how to create leverage and will start to add power to the swing with a strength gain.

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