Since we were talking about getting impact players for the future yesterday, I thought it would be a good time to take a break from all the offseason rumors to take a look at one such player who may already be in house. That player is Marck Malave, whom the Cubs signed as a 16 year old catcher this past summer. Malave, you may remember, was one of the Cubs two main international signings this year, signing for a club high $1.6M.
Malave is among the youngest players in winter ball this year and he's more than holding his own. Amongst all the chatter about the Cubs trade yesterday, this tweet came from Baseball America prospect guru Ben Badler,
Solid showing in the Liga Paralela for Cubs VZ catcher Mark Malave. Hit .286/.402/.364 in 92 PAs. Big July 2 signing.
The OBP is excellent and the slugging isn't quite there yet, but that could still come. Malave is a very strong player who projects to hit for power down the road. That he's holding his own is what's really impressive here, but it's nothing new for Malave. In October 2008, he was the youngest player on Venezuela's 14-and-under-team as a 13-year-old at the COPABE Pan American championship -- and he wasn't just there for the ride, he was one of the best hitters on the team.
Malave is a rarity in that he is a switch-hitting catcher with power potential. Some have compared him to a young Victor Martinez in that sense. Malave has a similar thick build and though there are a few in the industry who doubt that he will stick at catcher, many others give him above average marks for both his fielding and his throwing. His arm, in fact, may be his best tool.
Those who didn't like Malave thought he relied on his raw strength to hit and didn't think he had the bat speed to survive against tougher pitching. That's what makes his early performance in the Liga Paralela so encouraging. He is facing older, tougher pitching and his bat speed thus far doesn't seem to be a problem. Moreover, Cubs Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Wilken is one of the best in the game at evaluating bat speed and if he thought it was okay, there is a good chance that it is.
The Cubs were lucky they made the investment they did in Malave this past summer, because the signing may not have been possible under the new CBA parameters. He should start next season on one of the Cubs two Dominican Summer League teams and we'll be keeping an eye on him here on this site. If he continues to progress as he has so far, Malave could become the type of impact player the Cubs have been looking for in their organization.