Name: Brad Chalk
DOB: January 20, 1986
The 87th overall selection in the 2007 MLB Draft out of Clemson, Chalk was limited in his first professional season by a balky back that limited him to 34 games across two leagues.
With a late start to his professional career, Chalk was relegated to the Arizona Rookie League for 12 games – where he hit .364 and showed good pop.
Chalk was shipped to short-season Eugene and hit .229 over his final 22 games against more polished former collegiate pitchers while he was still in the process of adjusting to the wood bats and a change in his swing.
"He had back problems in Arizona before coming up," former Eugene hitting coach and current AZL Padres manager Jose Flores said. "The way he moved around and approached the game was a little different. He looked like he wasn't aggressive, taking command of the outfield and running routes. He is an ‘eight' runner – which is above average big leaguer. The way he ran the bases didn't give me that impression. He wasn't aggressive. He didn't run enough for a guy with that type of speed. He has to incorporate all those intangibles into his game – whether it is hitting the ball into the hole and running or in the outfield or laying down a bunt."
Chalk worked early in the year on changing the mechanics of his swing to get more of a load. He has the ability to hit for power but had more of a slap approach coming in. The idea was to give him more rhythm to his swing and allow him to drive the ball when he does make contact.
The feeling was he was looking to take too many pitches the other way and was letting the inside fastball get past him. With a shorter load, the Padres wanted to see Chalk turn on the inside pitch and pull it down the line. He made tremendous strides in the Padres fall Instructional League and appeared to be a far different player than earlier in the year.
"He has more pop than people think he does," former AZL Padres hitting coach Manny Crespo said. "He has more pop than he thinks he does. Once he starts getting the feel of the wooden bat, he is going to start to pull some balls instead of just spraying it the other way. He will turn on stuff. He has a quick bat. He likes putting the ball in play and running. As he gets stronger, things will change for him.
"He is going to put the ball in play and the boy can run. If he keeps the ball down he is definitely going to score some runs."
Instructs was the place where Chalk really made a statement. With his health back to 100 percent, the outfielder made plays in the field and was slick with the bat.
Chalk ended up hitting .354 in the Instructional League with a .466 on-base percentage, collecting two triples in a span of two days while placing second in the system in RBIs for the league.
"I had him as a fringe prospect when I saw him in Arizona, but when I saw him in the Instructional League, he really stood out and will be an everyday player," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said.
A scrappy player that has the makeup to succeed, Chalk is very relaxed at the plate and sits back well on pitches, picking up its rotation and putting himself in the best position to put the bat to ball.
His quick wrists generate solid bat speed and he has good balance at the dish, transferring his weight from his back foot forward smoothly. He has a one-step approach that has very little movement, giving him consistency with his hitting mechanics.
"I could see Chalk being a big leaguer once he understands he can pull the ball and hit the ball hard," Flores said. "His biggest problem is he is a shifter – he is shifting and slapping the ball the other way. He doesn't need to do that all the time. I can see him driving the ball into the gaps and really staying behind the ball and squaring it up instead of cutting himself off on his swing. When he does that there is no juice in his bat. They are going to start pounding you in. Get that little extension to go the other way.
"He was staying behind the ball better and starting to come around (at Instructs). He understands what we are trying to get out of him. I see him as a big leaguer."
A solid two-strike approach will keep his strikeout totals down, but he does have a tendency to chase down in the zone and can be fooled by off-speed pitches in the dirt.
He has a slight uppercut swing but is more of a gap hitter that will use his speed to turn doubles into triples. When he hits top speed, Chalk is very aggressive – knowing the fielder will have to make a perfect throw to nab him sliding into third.
While Chalk was caught four times in seven stolen base attempts across two leagues, the outfielder has a chance to be a perennial 30-plus stolen base threat. His back issues really compromised his speed and it took its toll when he was on the base paths. Chalk has good leverage and a solid first-step. His baseball acumen is above average, and once his ability to read pitchers catches up, his numbers should take off.
Chalk is a terrific bunter that can lay the ball in the right spots to get hits or move a runner over. With his blossoming power, the combination could be deadly – preying on fielders sitting back on the infield grass or lining it over their heads when they play in.
"He is a Johnny Damon-type guy when I saw Damon in the low minors, though he throws better than Johnny Damon and is probably a better outfielder too," Bryk said. "Chalk – if you were to ask me who our next centerfielder would be, prototype centerfielder, I would say Chalk.
"He is a few years away. If Durango continues to do what he did defensively, certainly I will raise my hand for him. And Diaz has a chance too, but Chalk is a very good outfielder. He takes good jumps, good reads, very steady, good runner – solid player."
"The routes he ran in the Instructional League were great," said Flores. "He was getting good jumps on the ball, showing off his speed, laying a few more bunts down."
He is an excellent route runner that covers a lot of ground. Adept at tracking balls down and not taking extra steps, Chalk is a prototypical centerfielder. He also has a very good throwing arm and is well-versed in throwing the ball to the right bag and hitting his cutoff man.
He cuts balls off headed towards the gaps, and his defense has a chance to reach Gold Glove type ability in the future.
"He is going to be a pretty good centerfielder," said Crespo. "He covers some ground out there. He has the potential.
"He is a gamer. He goes out there to play. He is a good presence because he is a light guy – he is not intense, he is light-hearted and keeps the game fun."
ETA: Chalk should be the everyday centerfielder in Fort Wayne to begin the year and may even challenge for that role in Lake Elsinore with a spectacular spring. With a year of adjustments in the books, Chalk is in line for a breakout season and could move quickly. He combines speed, good defense, a sound approach at the plate and surprising pop, making him an ideal candidate to play in the big leagues as a starter. Look for him to knock on the Padres door by the end of the 2010 season.
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