Tyler Colvin’s Big Chance

The Cubs are in the midst of a drought. That one, too, but over the last decade-plus, their first round selections have inspired confidence only in the team’s inability to draft well in that round. 1999’s Ben Christensen is more famous for his hit-batsmen antics than his playing career. Then came Luis Montanez, then that Mark Prior guy, but since then, things have resembled Wrigley’s ivy in January. In 2002 came Matthew Clanton, Chadd Blasko, Luke Hagerty, and Bobby Brownlie. The next few years brought Ryan Harvey, Mark Pawelek, and then Tyler Colvin – who seemingly just made the Cubs opening day 25-man roster over the weekend.

Colvin appeared out of place as the 13th overall selection in the 2006 draft. The Clemson Tigers’ outfielder drew comparisons to Steve Finley and Shawn Green in part because of his left-handed stroke. Throughout the minors, Colvin has spent most of his time playing center, although with the presence of Marlon Byrd that appears likely to change. Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano would presumably be the most affected, though early suggestions have Colvin playing once a week at each position.

Offensively, Colvin has more than 1,000 at-bats at Double-A, yet he’s never spent a day at Triple-A. His career Double-A slash line is .276/.318/.461; that’s an ISO of .185 to go with a walk rate of 5.5% and strikeout rate of 19.4%. Baseball America has noted that Colvin’s plate approach against crafty pitchers is iffy because he must cheat to square up on fastballs. That might be a problem because it would seem that the pool of crafty pitchers is only going to enlarge once major league teams become aware – if they aren’t well aware already.

Colvin’s fantastic exhibition season appears to be the driving force behind him making the roster. In an ideal world, your team’s players perform above expectations in spring training. This is not an ideal world. Reality exists. The reality is Colvin’s spring performance is unlikely to be a harbinger of Colvin’s rise to the outfield prospects elite. CHONE and ZiPS have Colvin posting a wOBA of .308 and .299, respectively. Unless his glove is something else, he’s going to hurt the Cubs more than he’s going to help them.

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24 Responses to “Tyler Colvin’s Big Chance”

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  1. Brett W. says:

    Do those projection systems account for the additional 25 pounds of muscle that Colvin added this offseason and how it would affect his slugging percentage? Colvin made the team because he looks like a completely different player than the one who had coffee in September.

    As for the Cubs’ decision to carry him and probably give him 10 PAs a week, that’s a different story altogether.

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  2. Bradley says:

    Brett brings up a good point. One of the reasons the projections systems may be low on him is that in late 2009, when he was called up, he suffered from fatigue almost the entire time. So, this summer, the coaches had him add the muscle so he could make it through the whole season.

    Still, I think he should be in AAA at most.

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  3. DavidCEisen says:

    I don’t think that the 20 ML at bats really effect the projections that much. Nor do the systems have anyway to account for 25 pounds of muscle being added, other than many young players get stronger over time. Nor is it always obvious what additional muscle mass will do for a player.

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  4. Norm says:

    Zero walks this Spring…that bodes well….

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    • Pete says:

      Yep, that’s what I was going to say. 62 AB’s and 0 walks. Yeesh. There’s a reason Colvin doesn’t show up on any prospect lists anymore.

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  5. Colvin didn’t make the team in a vacuum. Guys like Sam Fuld and Brad Snyder were ahead of him going into camp, but, well, they’re not good.

    That said, if he doesn’t figure out the strike zone fast, he’ll find himself in Iowa.

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    • dcs says:

      I think Fuld is fine as a backup CFer. He fields well, and and the plate he is disciplined and can get on base, and run pretty well. He lacks power, but that’s why he’s a fifth OFer..

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  6. JackWeiland says:

    Sweet Lou in the Herald today: “You reward performance in the spring. If not, there’s no sense in keeping statistics or records or anything. Just get in shape and play.”

    So, so, so close to getting it. And yet …

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  7. Max says:

    on one hand – 0 walks are bad
    on the other – You dont get off the island takin’ walks.

    He’s still just the 5th OF – if he wiffs too much, he goes to AAA. You have to spend April finding out what you have so you can figure out where you want to take the team from there. We know what Hoffpauir and Fuld can do at this point so might as well start with the guy with the most percieved (flawed as it may be) upside.

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    • strictbusiness14 says:

      Calling him the 5th OF is a matter of perspective. Defensively, he’s the 4th OF since Nady can’t be anything more than a bat off the bench for the first couple months of the season (recovering from TJ surgery).

      Also, he’s not the only guy with low walk totals. Just on the Cubs there’s Marlon Byrd (1), Xavier Nady (1), Alfonso Soriano (0), and Aramis Ramirez (0). Then, there’s also guys like Hanley Ramirez (2), Kevin Youkilis (2), Dustin Pedroia (2), Alexi Ramirez (2), Edgar Renteria (2), Pablo Sandoval (2), Carlos Quentin (2), Corey Hart (2), Derek Jeter (2), Victor Martinez (2), Jay Bruce (2), David Eckstein (2), Chris Coghlan (1), Ryan Zimmerman (1), Shane Victorino (1), Buster Posey (1), JJ Hardy (1), Howie Kendrick (1), AJ Pierzynski (0), Nick Markakis (0), Adam LaRoche (0), Christian Guzman (0), and Garrett Atkins (0) who have done alright for themselves.

      It’s exactly what you said, “You don’t get off the island takin’ walks.” Hits are more memorable than walks when guys are competing for spots and this is the time of year that guys are getting their swing down. Once the season starts, everyone’s going to be a little more cautious at the plate.

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      • Pete says:

        I sure hope your right my friend. But a career minor league walk percentage of 5.5% doesn’t bode well for him to be an everyday player.

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      • strictbusiness14, most of the (productive) guys on your list have a history of at least drawing the occasional walk. Colvin doesn’t, and therefore his Spring Training performance in that regard should be more of a red flag. And if the Cubs are happy with Cristian Guzman-like production out of a corner outfielder, then they are no doubt even more doomed than the most pessimistic of us believed.

        I’ll also add that the expression is “You don’t walk off the island” or “Nobody walks off the island,” both of which work much better in the comic sense. I’m not trying to be overly nit-picky, and I know you were just quoting, but the humor in someone literally being unable to walk off an island is a big part of what makes that particular adage popular.

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      • Zack says:

        “Hits are more memorable than walks when guys are competing for spots and this is the time of year that guys are getting their swing down.”

        Not a good excuse for having bad discipline.

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  8. J says:

    He’ll be the guy to demote when Starlin’s ready this year. Or the guy that gets showcased for a bullpen arm. Regardless, he’s not in the teams future plans.

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  9. Mike Z says:

    A left handed bat with some pop, a decent glove at all 3 OF spots and speed seems like a decent 4th outfielder even without good plate discipline. If he gets off to a solid start and keeps the confidence from the spring he could be a contributor.

    If he doesn’t then Fuld or Hoffpauir will still be there.

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