By Rob White
Matt Malkin will get his shot after all.
Metropolitan State University of Denver baseball coaches and players were somewhat surprised earlier this week when the squad’s All-American catcher wasn’t selected in the Major League Baseball draft.
But after the draft concluded, Malkin agreed to terms with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent and will report to the team’s training complex in Arizona on Sunday.
“I was a little nervous after not seeing my name come across on the draft tracker, but it worked out,” Malkin said. “The Giants called, and I’m going to get a shot, which is all I really needed all year.”
The 23-year-old Broomfield native transferred from the University of Alabama to MSU Denver to play his senior season for the Roadrunners and became the baseball program’s first NCAA Division II first-team All-American selection this past spring.
Malkin set the school’s single-season home-run record when he hit his 18th in just the 23rd game of the season, part of a streak in which he hit 15 homers in 14 games. He finished the season with a .416 batting average, 25 homers and 69 RBIs, just missing the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Triple Crown (he was second in batting average).
“(Malkin) deserved to get drafted, but at the same time he is getting the opportunity,” MSU Denver coach Ryan Strain said. “After the top 15 rounds or so, everyone is fighting for their lives anyway. You’ve got to play well when you get the opportunity, and he’s getting the opportunity.”
Malkin joins a Giants organization in which Strain’s father, Joe Strain,was a longtime scout and player. Joe Strain is now an MSU Denver assistant coach.
“(Giants scouts) had come to see (Malkin) a couple times, and with my dad having been with them for so long, he talked to them too,” Ryan Strain said. “They’ve got some openings.”
The Giants did draft one catcher in the 16thround: Brandon Martarano of North Carolina.
Players selected in the MLB draft typically are assigned to one of three teams for a short-season league that starts this month.
For the Giants, many advanced or college players start out with Salem-Keizer (Oregon) in the short-season Class A Northwest League. Others are assigned to one of the Giants’ two teams in the rookie-level Arizona League based at their spring-training complex in Scottsdale, Arizona.
In addition to drafted players, those three rosters can be filled with players who have been in extended spring training after not being assigned to one of the organization’s four full-season minor-league clubs.
Malkin was the RMAC co-player of the year after leading the league in homers, RBIs, total bases (168) and slugging percentage (.908) while ranking second in hitting (.428 regular season) and hits (77).He ranks second in NCAA Division II in homers, home runs per game (0.49) and slugging percentage and is third in RBIs per game (1.35) and fourth in total bases. He’s eighth nationally in RBIs and 17th in batting average.
Malkin played two seasons in junior college before spending his junior year at Alabama, where he was a part-time starter in the rugged Southeastern Conference.
He was unceremoniously cut from the high-stakes program and played his senior year close to home with the Roadrunners, putting together a season to remember.
“People ask why he wasn’t drafted, and I can’t put an exact reason on it,” Ryan Strain said. “He’s 23 years old, and that seems to matter with some teams – with the way scouting is now with the computers, being 23 doesn’t seem to help. But the thing is to get that opportunity, and no matter if you were drafted or if you sign as a free agent, it’s how well you play when you get there. And he got that opportunity.”
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