Monday, March 29, 2010

Tyler Colvin: Budding Star or 4th Outfielder?

After a scintillating spring, Tyler Colvin has defied the odds and made the Cubs opening day roster. The question is what do we make of him now? Some are ready to have him replace either of the frustratingly well-paid duo of Alfonso Soriano or Kosuke Fukudome. Others think this spring is too small a sample size, and we should reference his minor league numbers for evidence that Colvin may be nothing more than a 4th outfielder in the long run.

If you think he's a future star, then you may be a little worried that he will be sitting on the bench and missing out on important development time in AAA. I, for one, think he's right where he belongs at this point -- as the Cubs 4th outfielder.

Here's why...

Colvin has posted incredible numbers this spring: The Cactus League leading .468 average, the .710 slugging percentage - he's even stolen a couple of bases. But there is another statistic that stands out: Zero walks. Tyler Colvin has been a good, but not great hitter in the minor leagues. In his best season last year he hit .300, but with his low walk total, that translated to a rather pedestrian .328 OBP. If Colvin had another attribute, such as 30 homer power or speed to steal 30 bases at a 75% rate or better, you could overlook that. But he doesn't. If he played a stellar centerfield, you could easily live with a guy who hits .270 with about 15 hrs, even with a low OBP. But he doesn't do that either. He's a corner outfielder and corner outfielders are expected to be offensive assets for your team.

I have seen some improvement with Colvin ths spring. He's put on 25 lbs of muscle. Just as importantly, he has learned to turn on the ball and hit it with more authority. However, this can be neutralized to some degree by major league pitchers who will exploit his aggressiveness. If he's swinging at pitcher's pitches, he just won't consistently be able to take advantage of that added muscle and adjustment in his swing.

What Colvin does well is a little of everything. He plays good defense at all 3 positions and especially at the corners, but it's not gold glove caliber defense. He runs well, but his long stride and lack of burst don't bode well for stealing bases at an effective rate. He hits well, but not well enough to overcome his low walk rate. He has some pop in his bat, but if he isn't swinging at good pitches, he will struggle to hit 20 homeruns. To me, that adds up to a solid 4th outfielder. Can he improve? Of course, he's already a far better player than he was at this point last year and who's to say he won't continue to work on his game. Nothing is set in stone and I would like nothing better than to see Colvin improve and consistently put up big numbers. But until that happens, we will continue to see glimpses and flashes like we have this spring.


  1. Just testing out the comments section until I get some real replies! I would add that this is just a snapshot of Colvin at this moment of time and that he has some work to do. I also neglected to say that Colvin has battled an elbow injury and was finally healthy during the second half at AA last year...maybe not coincidentally, he put up his best numbers in his career.

  2. The Cubs system is getting better, I think Baseball America has them 16th I think, that's up from 24 last year.

  3. It's great to see, isn't it? Keith Law actually ranked them 7th...that may be a little too optimistic even for me, but I'll give him credit for not playing it safe. Keith Law is opiniated and sometimes it rubs people the wrong way, but you have to respect his tremendous knowledge of the game, even if you don't always agree with what he says.

  4. 7th? That is a little optimistic. Keith Law tends go a little over the top. The Cubs do have a improving farm system though, I say by next year the Cubs will be easily in the top 10.