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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.