Midwest Recruiting: Regarded as a top MLB Draft prospect, John Malcom remains focused on leading Country Day in tournament
John Malcom grew up with a love for watching and playing the game of basketball, which isn’t all too surprising, considering he comes from a family he describes as a ‘basketball family’.
But as time went on Malcom developed an affinity for the game of baseball, a sport that was relatively new to himself and his family, and now that he’s finishing up his high school career, the Detroit Country Day star has emerged not only as one of the best players in Michigan, but one of the top players in the entire country.
The decision to pursue a potential future in the game of baseball was a numbers game for Malcom, seeing that it could become easy to get lost in the shuffle playing basketball while knowing that his size and physical attributes could allow him to stand out on the diamond.
“It’s more like a statistical thing, I noticed all of my friends, we were all the same height, the same caliber athlete as far as basketball goes,” he said. “But baseball, not everyone can hit, not everyone is left-handed. I had special gifts that I felt I had to utilize, I couldn’t waste being a left-handed athlete. Baseball is where I can strive.”
Not only is Malcom one of the best prep players in the entire country, but many regard Malcom as one of, if not the top high school first baseman in the Major League Baseball Amateur draft, which begins on Monday, June 4th and goes through Wednesday June 6th.
Even though he has gained the attention of Major League organizations and talent evaluators, Malcom still remains focused on leading Country Day to its first state title since 1995.
“That was my goal and that’s everyone’s goal to get to the professional (level), so that means a lot to me when I’m able to get professional scouts to notice my work and what I’ve been working on in the offseason,” Malcom said. “It means a lot, but my mindset right now is just winning a state championship, I’ve been on great teams the past three or four years.”
So far this season, Malcom has posted a .421 batting average with six home runs and 16 doubles to go along with 32 RBI.
For Country Day and head coach Steve Lepkowski, having scouts flock to practices and games isn’t out of the ordinary as the Yellowjackets have a track record of producing players who have gone on to be drafted and play high level college baseball, most recently Steve Mann. Mann was drafted in the 38th round of the 2017 MLB draft by the Detroit Tigers, but instead chose to play college baseball at Duke.
Similar to Mann, Malcom will face a difficult decision in the coming months as he is currently committed to Vanderbilt, a perennial College World Series contender. However, if he is drafted in a range where he, his family and his advisor feel is acceptable, he may consider choosing the professional ranks over playing in college.
Lepkowski said that it’s far from a sure thing that Malcom would sign with an MLB team if drafted and noted that he has worked hard to put himself in the enviable position that he’s currently in.
“He’s put himself in a tremendous position where it’s not something where if he gets drafted it’s automatic that he’s going to go, he’s also really excited about Vanderbilt,” he said. “I don’t know what he’s going to decide, he’s going to think about it long and hard and think about the big picture because he’s confident in his skill set.”
Malcom said in the end, his decision whether or not to go pro will be based on what situation will be best for his development and growth.
“I kind of just want it to be the best decision for me,” he said. “Where I’ll be able to strive the best, where I’ll grow, develop, whether that be in the minor leagues or in college. I just want to develop as a player and reach my potential.”
In his conversations, Lepkowski said he’s heard Malcom could be drafted as high as the third round, but noted that the MLB draft is as unpredictable as any, especially after the first couple of rounds.
Malcom is an intimidating left handed hitter, standing at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds but is much more than just a one-dimensional player. With constant shifting by opposing teams when he’s in the batter’s box, Malcom said that he’s worked on several areas of his game, including his patience at the plate and hitting the ball the other way to beat the defensive shifts he sees.
“That’s something that I’ve been working on, trying to get into advantage counts that are hitter’s counts,” he said. “It’s all about patience and waiting on your pitch and not the pitcher’s pitch because most people aren’t going to just throw it right down the middle for me, they’re going to work away with the breaking ball, so I have to lay-off and usually drive them.”
Lepkowski said that he has also seen his star senior make strides on the baseball diamond and credits the consistent competition Malcom faces during the high school season and summer has helped him become a better all-around player.
“I think that takes people by surprise because he’s such a big and imposing figure,” he said. “They’re thinking power hitter just taking big swings and he really picks up the ball early, he’s a hit to all fields guy, drag bunt and he can obviously hit it over the fence. He’s a well-rounded, very mature baseball player. He spent the last three summers in Atlanta, Georgia with some of the top kids in America and he’s up here with some talented kids playing a competitive schedule. A lot of choices he’s made have benefited him because he always put himself in a competitive environment.”
Though this time of year can understandably be a lot for some players in Malcom’s position to handle with the MHSAA baseball tournament beginning this week, the draft taking place next week and college beginning in just a few short months, Malcom is far from overwhelmed.
Along with his relationship with Mann, his former high school teammate, Malcom has also played with former Birmingham Brother Rice standout, Nick Plummer, who was drafted in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft and has been able to lean on both players for advice while going through this process.
But what stands out to Malcom in his conversations with both is that both Mann and Plummer regret not winning a state championship, which is what Malcom is focusing his attention is on more than anything right now.
“The biggest thing I get from listening to them, talking to them, is the draft is all nice and it’s everyone’s goal, but their biggest regret is probably not winning a state championship,” he said. “Missing that moment with your boys, it’s your high school moment.”