When the Chicago Cubs took Tyler Colvin with their first round pick in 2006, you could hear the groans from across Chicago. The kid – talented, to be sure – was projected as a third or fourth round pick, and the Cubs had just tabbed him in the middle of the first. What was up?
Well, in truth, there were two very good reasons for selecting Colvin there – (1) the Cubs did not have picks for a couple of rounds thereafter, so it was either take Colvin first, or not take him at all, and (2) in the fifth, the Cubs knew they would be selecting Jeff Samardzija, and would need big bucks to woo him away from a professional football career.
Colvin got off to a fast start after the draft, and was the player of the year in the Northwest League for the stub year that he spent there. But then, he struggled. And his elbow gave out. And he fell off the radar a bit.
And now he’s got a chance to make the Cubs.
“First of all, Colvin has had an outstanding spring,” Piniella said on Wednesday. “Colvin has played well enough to make this team. The concern is we don’t want this young man to make this team and just sit. So, if he’s on our Opening Day roster, he’s going to get some playing time. He’s just not going to sit.”
Could Piniella give him a couple starts each week?
“I’m going to have to,” Piniella said. “We just don’t want a young player like Colvin to make the team and sit down and not play. If Colvin is with us, he’s going to get some playing time. To his credit, he can play all three outfield positions. We just don’t want him sitting. We’ll see how it works out.”
The Cubs have long-term contract commitments to outfielders Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome.
“If I didn’t have Fukudome, Byrd or Soriano, [Colvin] would be a regular at one of those positions this spring,” Piniella said.
The Cubs still need to determine one extra outfielder, one extra infielder and one reliever. There are three extra outfielders in camp in Colvin, Jim Adduci and Sam Fuld. Adduci is batting .316 but has no big league experience. He can also play all three outfield positions. So can Fuld, who is 4-for-29 this spring and is viewed as more of a defensive sub.
“I know if Colvin is here, my job is to get him some playing time,” Piniella said. cubs.com.
With Xavier Nady still unable to play the field, and with Alfonso Soriano probably still gimpy, there would definitely be at bats for Colvin early in the season. Thereafter? Harder to say.
It’s nice that the Cubs don’t want to dampen his development, and may prefer to see him get regular work at Iowa, but, um, for what? The Cubs have three outfielders locked into relatively large, long-term contracts (insofar as they extend beyond 2010). The possible exception is Marlon Byrd, but after this year, he’s not going to be paid like a back-up. So who exactly would Colvin be groomed to replace? It’s a good problem to have, to be sure, but the Cubs may be better served worrying about the 2010 on-field product.