I've been getting a lot of shit lately because I haven't written anything Twins related. Honestly between the one million day games and my two completely insane children I haven't gotten to see that much. I have seen enough to finally make a post, and why not start with American League RBI leader Chris Colabello?
First off history is generally against him given that not many players don't crack the bigs until they're 29 years old and then go on to be stars. He also struck out 32% of the time last season (in 181 plate appearances) which would put him somewhere near the all-time strikeout record if it held up for a full season). When he did put the ball in play, he popped it up 17.4% of the time, a mark which would have been fourth worst in baseball. In short, Colabello was a really shitty hitter last season.
The Twins were determined to bring him back this year because he had a tremendous 2013 in AAA (.352/.427/.639) and frankly they didn't have a lot of other options unless you still foolishly believe in Chris Parmelee. So far he's rewarded them by hitting .333/.379/.519 with good power (6 doubles, 1 HR) and is leading the AL with 16 RBI. Gaudy numbers, to be sure, and quite the turnaround from last season. The question is, is Chris Colabello like, good?
Two major red flags right off the nerd stat bat - his walk % and his BABIP. Last season Colabello walked in a quite good 11.0% of his plate appearances. That would have ranked him in a tie for 29th in the majors last season. That was one of the only signs for optimism last season with Colabello, and it's completely gone away this year with him walking in just 3.8% of his plate appearances. Usually when a batter makes a leap you see that move in the opposite direction. He somehow went from a patient hitter to someone who walks at a Delmon Young level (they have the exact same walk rate). The other red flag is that his BABIP is .400 this season, a completely unsustainable number. Things do not look good so far for young Mr. Colabello.
There are, however, some positives. Most namely he's making more and better contact. His K rate has dropped from that ugly 32% to a more acceptable 25% - manageable if you're producing offensively - helped by him making contact 70% of the time when he swings this year compared to 65% last year, and more importantly making contact 81% on swings on balls in the strike zone compared to 73% last season. With that contact he's hitting more line drives (19% vs. 14%) and has yet to hit a single infield pop-up this year after doing it like it was his job last season.
So the real truth lies somewhere in between 2013 Chris Colabello and 2014 Chris Colabello. He's not a worse hitter than Nick Punto, but he's not an all-star either, which I suppose gives you a pretty wide range of outcomes but that's the difference between the two Colabellos. He'll probably regress and end up putting up something like .275/.320/.450 with low double digit home runs and an overinflated sense of worth when he finishes with 90-100 RBI. With his subpar defense he'll probably hover around replacement level for his career, and having to play 1B or a corner outfield spot without supplying the high level offense those premium offensive positions usually bring is a big negative.
Basically he's a capable bat of the bench. Who will end up starting 150+ games for the Twins. That says a whole lot.
Coming Monday: Is Kyle Gibson like, good?