In George We Trust
A(nother) blog about the most storied franchise in sports
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Prospect Profile: Chris Malec
Name: Christopher Malec
Position: 2B/SS
Vitals: 6'0", 190 lbs
Bats: Switch
Throws: Right
Born: August 28, 1982
Hometown: Laguna Nigel, California
Drafted: 16th round (499th overall) in 2005 (Yankees 16th selection)

Background: A 4 year starter at UC Santa Barbara, Malec was awarded All-Big West second team and honorable mention Freshman All-American honors in 2002, then named first team All-Big West his junior season, and finished his career as a second team member of the All-Big West team. Malec was diagnosed with testicular cancer during his senior season and underwent surgery, but he returned from treatment 2 weeks early using Lance Armstrong as inspiration. Malec clubbed a grand slam in the first inning in his first start back from surgery, and finished his Gaucho career with a .301-.382-.444-.826 line. Despite missing time due to a knee injury his sophomore year as well as his bout with cancer, Malec ranks in the school's all-time top ten in career RBIs. Like top prospect Phil Hughes, Malec is a lifelong Red Sox fan who's become accustomed to being on the Dark Side.

Strengths: Malec is a polished hitter, typical of college seniors. He's got good power to the gaps and does what he has to in order to get on base a (36 HBP in college). He has very good baserunning skills, which allows him to score alot of runs and stay away from making outs on the bases. Malec is the antithesis to the "there's no such thing as clutch" argument, as he went 26-35 (.743) with runners on third and less than 2 outs his junior year. His bat control is also exemplary and he rarely strikes out because of it (he posted more walks than strikeouts in his junior and senior years, and continues to do so as a pro). He has a knack for fouling off pitches and making pitchers work to get him out, and can shift over from second to shortstop without skipping a beat. As expected from a player coming back from cancer, his work ethic and makeup are through the roof.

Weaknesses: Despite his outstanding baserunning instincts, Malec speed isn't what you'd expect from a middle infielder, and he isn't a baserunning threat because of it (only 15 SB attempts since 2002, college and pro). Because he makes contact so easily, he doesn't walk much. Surprisingly, he's not a very good bunter given his control of the bat. His glovework is only average; he'll make a highlight play one inning then boot a routine grounder the next. He faced good, but not great competition in college, so his numbers may be padded a bit.

Comparison: Malec had no trouble adjusting to wood bats once he turned pro, and he continues to drive in runs even though his power dipped a bit. Malec's pro debut was significantly more impressive than 2 other middle infielders taken in the 2005 draft (I limited it to college players only, so no Justin Upton - who hasn't even made his pro debut yet - or CJ Henry) :

Troy Tulowitzki7th overall (COL).266.343.457.8002.00
Cliff Pennington21st overall (OAK).276.364.359.7231.21
Malec499th overall.384.439.479.918.571

Obviously Tulowitzki and Pennington have higher ceilings than Malec - just look where they were drafted - but Malec has stepped into pro ball and produced immediately, always a good sign.

Outlook: Malec has some serious sleeper potential. He fits the bill of a number 2 hitter to a tee thanks to his bat control and on-base ability. If he had more speed he'd be an excellent candidate for the leadoff spot as well. It's too early in his pro career to accurately predict, but he has the look of becoming a poor man's Derek Jeter. The Yankees curiously Malec had begin his pro career in Rookie ball despite being 23 years old (maybe it had something to do with his bout with cancer), but with the presence of Mario Holmann, CJ Henry, and Hector Made in the low minors, Malec should jump up to High-A Tampa to begin 2006. He shouldn't need a full season at any level, and is a prime candidate for a September 2007 call-up. However, with Jeter and Robinson Cano entrenched in the Bronx, Malec's chance may have to come with another team.

Update: You can view Malec's scouting view here, simply scroll down until you find his name (7th from the top), then click on your connection speed on the far right of his vitals line.
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