It is hard to make any sweeping judgements on early season stats, so the best question is often “What is this player doing new?”. In the case of shortstop Malquin Canelo he is showing power that he has never shown up this point. Canelo up to this point has been a bit of an after thought, he did have some helium after the 2013 season based on his defense earning himself a spot as the #28 prospect in the system. At that point he was all defense with real questions about whether his bat could carry him after he hit .220/.291/.297 that year. In 2014, Canelo was pushed aside for J.P. Crawford and started in Extended Spring Training lining up for a return trip to Williamsport. He was then able to move to Lakewood when Crawford went to Clearwater and hit well in 45 games (.270/.319/.355). However, due to other additions in the system he fell to being the #41 prospect in the system, which brings us to this year.
Canelo still has the ability to be an excellent defensive shortstop, though his consistency is not always ideal. He is still an above average runner who can steal a base here and there. What is different is that he has already hit his first home run of the year and currently leads the South Atlantic League in doubles (8) while only having played 13 games. His previous high for extra base hits in a year was last year when he had 13 (11 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run) in 65 games. Minor League batted ball data is not the most reliable and it has a lot of these doubles coming on fly balls, so we will see if it is sustainable. However, we can see that Canelo is starting to drive the ball more overall, here is a heat map of his 2013 season.
We see the following year in 2014 he is starting to drive the ball more for singles and a smattering of doubles.
Finally we have our small sample size in 2015.
Now I wouldn’t expect him to keep up this torrid power pace as without hard hit line drives some of this doubles are going to get caught as teams play him deeper. However, showing the ability to drive the ball deeper is a real skill, and one that can be more repeatable at higher levels.
This brings us to the next part of his hot start, which is the improving approach at the plate. In 2013 he struck out 22.6% of the time in Williamsport. In 2014 in his brief appearance in Lakewood he struck out 18.6% of the time. The year that rate is down to 13.6% and he is walking at a career high 11.9%. Much like the power, we are probably looking at an unsustainable rate.
If we put all of this together and acknowledge that the numbers will regress, we still could have a shortstop hitting about .270 with an ISO in the .100 to .120 range while walking a decent amount of the time. That is a player well worth paying attention to. Now all of this could fall apart, in that case you have a lesser version of 2010 Freddy Galvis playing at a level that is age appropriate which is nothing to laugh at either.
Heat maps from mlbfarm.com.