With plenty of attention going to other players in the team’s lineup, Malquin Canelo has been an underrated contributor to the Class A Lakewood offense thus far this season.
Listed at five-foot-ten and 156 pounds, Canelo easily lays low, unnoticed next to over-sized teammate first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who stands six-foot-four and weighs 225 pounds while sporting a .301 average and hitting for power. Long raved about outfield prospect Carlos Tocci and his league best .366 batting average are also overshadowing Canelo’s steady production.
Through 31 games to start the season, the 20-year-old shortstop has tallied a .315 average with a home run, five RBI and six steals for the BlueClaws.
In the top spot of Lakewood’s batting order, Canelo has been a catalyst. Through action on Saturday, the Domincan native was batting .333 in 54 at bats when leading off an inning and posted an identical .333 average in 27 at bats in the first inning.
The determined Canelo prides himself on his simple outlook in helping his team’s offense.
“I’ve been trying to put the ball in play and not do too much,” Canelo said with the assistance of translator and team hitting coach Nelson Prada. “When I get two strikes, I try to give the best effort that I can. That’s pretty much what my approach is. Just be more focused and put the ball in play and try not to swing and miss.”
The two-strike approach is something that Canelo’s manager Shawn Williams gets excited about, as it helps by forcing the opposition to throw more pitches and assists his ‘Claws teammates with seeing more of the hurler’s offerings, while posting exceptional output.
“I think the thing that has impressed me most, as a lead-off man, he’s really taken to it and I love his first at bats of the game. Sometimes he looks like he takes till he gets two strikes and (he doesn’t) care about getting two strikes. I want to say almost about half his hits have come with two strikes,” Williams stated recently.
Canelo, who was signed as an amateur free agent in 2012, spent some time with Lakewood last year, batting .270 with a homer and 18 RBI along with four steals in 45 games. He also played 20 combined games with short-season Williamsport and Class A Advanced Clearwater in 2014. Despite the success with the BlueClaws last season, Canelo entered this year as a .216 hitter in three seasons, batting primarily toward the bottom of batting orders.
The additional experience and seeing the South Atlantic League for a second campaign has been key toward his improvements, according to Canelo.
“Confidence has been good for me. It’s big for me because I was in this league for a little bit last year, so pretty much in my second year in the league and seeing these pitchers, I started to recognize the pitches a lot better,” Canelo said.
As a youngster, Canelo grew up admiring a pair of Yankees middle infielders, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. Williams feels Canelo, like that pair of talented players, has plenty of tools that could help him reach the majors someday.
“His defense speaks for itself. He’s a threat running the bases- everything. He’s been fun to watch. He’s been great and the future is bright.”