Thursday, August 19, 2010
Could Cubs' Colvin be First Baseman of Future?
Who's going to play first base next year for the Cubs? Their rookie right fielder, maybe. Paul Sullivan:
Tyler Colvin hasn't played first base since he was a sophomore at Clemson. But with Derrek Lee gone, Colvin could be the heir apparent at first in 2011.
The Cubs said Micah Hoffpauir would be called up Thursday from Triple-A Iowa and will share playing time with Xavier Nady for the time being. However, Hoffpauir was sent down Friday and can't be called up for 10 days. The Cubs maintain Colvin needs a spring training at first under his belt if they decided to move him there go in that direction.
"I'm not sure how long I'd need," Colvin said. "It's been a while since I've done it. Hopefully if they want me to do that, I'll do it. No one has ever said 'Hey, we want you to take ground balls there.' I've got to wait for that first and then we'll see what happens."
Colvin thinks he could handle first, though he didn't sound like he was eager to move there.
"I'm comfortable in the outfield, but if that's what they want me to do, I can't complain," he said. "If it helps out the Chicago Cubs, that's what I'll do."
Obviously (and as The Friendly Blogfines points out), the Nady/Hoffpauir combination figures as the answer in September, but that's about it. Minor league third baseman Josh Vitters might be a first baseman someday, but today he's still struggling as a hitter in Double-A. Essentially, there's not a first baseman in the system with an ETA before late 2012. At best.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have four outfielders: Colvin, Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, and Kosuke Fukudome.
Soriano's not going anywhere because he's still got about $3 billion on his contract. Byrd's not going anywhere because he's one of the Cubs' best players. Fukudome's probably not going anywhere because his salary is $13.5 million next season.
Granted, the Cubs could trade Fukudome, but that would almost surely meaning eating most of his contract. Everyone's disappointed with Kosuke, and he certainly hasn't played well enough to justify his salaries, these last three seasons. But they've got him for one more season, so they might as well focus on what he can do rather than what he can't. And he does have a .370 on-base percentage and middling power against right-handed pitchers. The Cubs don't need to dump Kosuke. If they can't find someone who will pay most of his salary (unlikely), they just need to find a righty-hitting platoon partner for him (easy).
Which would leave Tyler Colvin in the cold.
What's not immediately apparent is whether he belongs anywhere else.
Entering this season, Colvin was ranked by Baseball America as the Cubs' 17th most promising prospect. Thanks to a fantastic March, he broke camp with the big club despite having never played any Triple-A ball. Considering those facts, he's been a huge success. Of course, other facts include his .320 on-base percentage in the minors and his .307 on-base percentage in the majors. It's not clear that he's actually a good enough hitter to play first base in the majors. Or right field, for that matter.
Still, the Cubs know Colvin can handle right field, defensively. He's been doing it for years. Why not find out this winter if he can handle first base? Somebody has to play there next year. Otherwise a lot of throws from the shortstop sail into foul territory.