Shortstop Malquin Canelo had a breakout season in 2015, proving himself worthy of being in consideration to rank among the Phillies’ top prospects, coming a long way as a hitter from previous seasons as he continued to shine with his glove.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, the talented youngster made his professional debut that year with the Phils’ Dominican Summer League team. In 54 games, Canelo sported a .167 average with five doubles, two triples and nine RBI.
The following season, he split time at two levels, producing a .221/.287/.296 slash line in 61 total games for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies and the short-season A level Williamsport Crosscutters.
In 2014, Canelo displayed improvements with the bat posting a .249/.302/.324 slash line in 66 combined games with Williamsport, Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater.
As a 20-year-old, Canelo would open the 2015 campaign back at Lakewood, where he would earn a nod as a South Atlantic League All-Star.
As the lead-off man for Lakewood, the righty hitting Canelo displayed a very good head for his role, doing his best to put the ball in play and often taking till the pitcher threw two strikes, giving his own teammates the best opportunity to see the hurler’s offerings as much as possible.
In 63 games with the BlueClaws, he batted .311 with five home runs and 23 RBI adding 22 doubles, which were tops in the league at the All-Star break.
After going 2-for-3 with a fitting double as well as a walk and being named player of the game in the SAL All-Star Game, Canelo was promoted to Clearwater, where he continued his outstanding efforts. In 63 games in the Florida State League, at a level where much of the competition is plenty older, the youngster posted a .250 average with three homers and 24 RBI.
Canelo packs some surprise strength into his small five-foot-ten 160-pound frame and short, slap-style swing. He has an ability to drive the ball and notched 40 extra-base hits in 126 games last season. He’ll almost certainly always be a single-digit home run hitter, but can continue to be a doubles and triples guy at higher levels.
Generally, the righty batting Canelo hits better against right-handed pitchers. All nine of his home runs in 2015 were against righties.
Speed is certainly a part of Canelo’s offensive game as well. He was successful in 17 of 25 (68%) attempts at two levels last season and has a 71% success rate for his career thus far. With a potential plus tool here, access to more coaches at higher levels of the developmental ranks and learning to read pitchers better will result in this weapon become more significant.
Defensively, Canelo has the tools to be a top-notch fielder. He displays smooth movement, quick hands and a very strong arm. His coaches praise his efforts and improvement on this side of the game. Despite 25 errors committed last season, he’s consistent in the field at a critical position. He has rarely played any other position besides shortstop as a pro.
More time at High A should be in store for Canelo before he’ll make it to Double-A. He’ll be 21-years-old until Labor Day (last day of minor league season), so there’s certainly no rush to move him up anyway.
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