Name: Brad Chalk
DOB: January 20, 1986
The 87th overall selection in the 2007 MLB Draft, Chalk got off to a slow start with a back injury that sapped his strength. He hit .276 across two leagues with a .376 on-base percentage.
At instructs he showed much more promise – driving balls with authority. The hope was he would carry it over into the year.
Unfortunately, the 2008 season didn't bear as much fruit as originally hoped. Chalk did not inflict the damage many expected he would. It is sort of ironic. The center fielder hit .365 with runners in scoring position this season, driving in 43 – mainly out of the leadoff or two-hole spot in the lineup.
Damage, however, is viewed in terms of extra base hits. He notched 22 such hits across 104 games this season – a number that does not meet expectations. After three months, he had just five doubles before hitting 10 in July and tapering off.
He ended the season with a .275 average but a .340 slugging percentage did not meet expectations. Perhaps the more telling stat came in the 39 runs he scored – not exactly leadoff man material.
Chalk remains a patient hitter, drawing 46 walks compared to 55 strikeouts for a .354 on-base percentage. He is selective and will find himself in good counts.
The problem has been turning on the inside fastball. He has yet to master that skill. Attempting to appease the Padres and what they want to see, Chalk has regressed in other areas. He was very comfortable going the other way and using all parts of the field.
Changing tactics has created some indecision on what pitch to swing at and how to give the ball the proper approach. It could be that he just needs to see more pitches before he is truly comfortable in his environment.
"He was actually a little ticked at himself towards the end of the year, he goes, ‘Man, I can't hit the ball the other way as well as I did before,'" Fort Wayne hitting coach Tom Tornicasa explained. "I said, ‘Because now you got to make your adjustment on letting the ball travel a little more and getting a little deeper instead of getting a head out all the time on the pitches.'
"I think he'll be fine. I think next year he should be in the Cal League, and I would bet that he hits well over .300 there."
"Kind of a slash hitter, but we are working with his foundation to give him more leverage so he can hit the ball with a little bit more authority and drive the ball into the gaps a little more," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "We need to get him in the weight room so he can get a little bit stronger, and he has a good frame to put on some more weight. It will be a year or two before we really start to see him drive some balls."
Chalk, a left-handed hitter, is much more comfortable facing right-handed pitchers. He hit .298 off them while scuffling with a ..225 average off southpaws.
"I don't know if you saw where he actually jumped up in his swing: he actually had both feet off the ground when he swung the bat, if you can believe that," Tornicasa said. "Because when I first saw it, I couldn't believe it. I was going, ‘Holy cow! What are we going to do with this?'
"Seriously, I was going, ‘Wow!' I looked at some of the tape early on just to show him and I'll tell you what, I mean, both feet were off the ground and I'm going, ‘How the heck is he doing it?'
"But it does show that he has good hand-eye coordination because I don't think I could even put the bat on the ball if I was jumping in a swing. But he really came a long way. I actually was proud of him with all the work he put in and actually learned to pull the ball but he'll understand it a little more."
A second concern is that he seemed to feed off lesser pitching, hitting much better off relievers than he managed against starters.
Chalk has a smooth stroke with quick hands to get the bat head through the zone quickly. A level swing produces more line drives and grounders and the feeling is once he gets acclimated with how to drive a pitch on the inner half versus going the other way on balls on the outer half, his doubles production will increase.
The Clemson alumnus is an excellent base runner with above average speed. He has a quick initial step and reads pitchers well. Chalk can also extend base hits into doubles and go from first to third with relative ease.
He was 18-for-18 in the stolen base category heading into the final game of the season before getting thrown out twice in three attempts.
"It was 18 straight when we went into the game," Dascenzo said. "He goes and steals second base, he's safe and the umpire calls him out, so it was a bad call there. He gets on later in the game and steals second cleanly, for his 19th and we let the reins go on him and gave him an opportunity to try and steal third base, but he didn't quite make it to try and get his 20th one of the year.
"He's come such a long way, even though he missed quite a few games with us too, so some of the numbers are down because of that. He learned. I think he needs to be a little more aggressive as far as going.
"Anytime we talk about stealing bases, you're going to have risk involved. If you're going to steal 40 or 50 bases, you're not going to steal 50 and not get caught zero. We've got to be careful to not kid ourselves, particularly where he was at with the 18-0 thing. He learned a lot about that as well as working on his swing, getting a better foundation. I think he ended up hitting .275 this year and he steals 19 out of 21."
An above-average defensive player, Chalk takes smart routes to track down balls and is very adept at running down balls hit over his head. He plays short and takes advantage of his speed and athleticism by reading the ball off the bat. He also possesses a solid arm that is accurate. He recorded 10 outfield assists on the season.
"Chalkie has come a long way. He's worked very hard, great defender, plus runner, learning how to steal bases, understanding what it takes to steal bases," Dascenzo said. "Plus, plus range in the field. His arm is a tick below average but very accurate."
Conclusion: Chalk has the attributes to be a solid top of the lineup hitter and is struggling through the changes. Once he masters hitting the ball where it is pitched and pulling more balls, he will be more of a prospect.
Chalk has outstanding defensive skills and is a plus runner. The progress he makes with the bat, hitting the gaps more regularly, will be the telling stat on his future success. He has the batting eye to be successful and just needs to keep the transition in his game flowing forward. Chalk is a candidate to make a huge leap forward in the coming year.
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