Brewers draft 'natural hitter' Clark at No. 15
Left-handed HS outfielder ranked as 12th-best Draft prospect
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin touted the team's selection of Richland (Texas) High School outfielder Trent Clark at 15th overall in the First-Year Player Draft as an intersection of "best player available" and organizational need.
"He's something we've been looking for. He's a legitimate hitter, left-handed," Melvin said Monday night. "He has good plate discipline. He has some power. He can play center field. We're pretty excited about getting a real professional hitter. That's something we felt we've lacked in our system recently.
"We didn't think he would be there. It is a good pick for us."
Brewers scouts are split on whether Clark, who bats and throws left-handed, will stick in center field or wind up in right, but there was consensus about the quality of the bat. Clark confirmed his reputation as one of the top prep hitters in the Draft with his performance at the 18-and-under Pan American Championships in Mexico in September. He set a Team USA 18U single-season record with 24 RBIs over 12 games last summer, including what proved to be the game-winning RBI single in the gold-medal win over Cuba.
Clark batted .555 with a .696 on-base percentage, two home runs and 24 RBIs in 63 at-bats this season for Richland. He was ranked as the 12th-best prospect in the Draft by MLB.com.
"The consistent sweet-spot contact that he makes, it's uncanny," said Brewers national crosschecker Steve Riha, who saw Clark play at least 20 games with Brewers area scout KJ Hendricks. "He's a natural hitter, and that's what you're looking for."
Said Brewers amateur scouting director Ray Montgomery: "He's a potential five-tool player in the outfield. Really excited to get that type of player at 15."
Clark was the first of three Brewers selections on Day 1 of the Draft. Milwaukee also had the 40th pick in Competitive Balance Round A, and the 55th pick in the second round.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at noon.
Clark monitored the Draft at his favorite Dallas-area wings joint, surrounded by family and friends visiting from Oklahoma to South Texas.
"I was overwhelmed with emotions I had never felt before," he said. "I was really calm and ready for whatever happens to happen. The emotions hit me."
He has a college commitment to Texas Tech and is being advised by SSG Baseball.
Clark has one notable quirk. At times, he grips the bat like a golf club, with his hands slightly split and his thumbs up. He's been swinging that way since he was 13.
"When I was younger, I was a weaker kid," Clark said. "The bat [sat] in the back of my hands, and moved around a lot, so I didn't have a lot of bat control. I put it in the top of my hands, got a firm grip on it, kept the thumbs on there to keep it balanced and [that] gave me more bat control. And ever since then I've used it.
"The mechanics, as far as me swinging and my grip, all that is all hitting in the cage and grinding it out and being what's good for me and not worrying about what it looks like or trying to look like something else. I've lived and died by that, going to the cage and working hard and doing my thing every single time."
Of that grip, Riha said, "It's unique, but maybe that's what everybody else should be trying. The way this kid hits, he's a natural hitter."