Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ex-Twins watch: Chris Colabello

Chris Colabello tags out Texas' Josh Hamilton in the
first inning Friday afternoon.
The Toronto Blue Jays could almost be described as "Twins Canada." The roster includes Ben Revere, who has played left field and led off in both playoff games; starting pitcher R.A. Dickey; bullpen arms Liam Hendriks and LaTroy Hawkins; and Chris Colabello, first baseman-outfielder and right-handed bat. All are former Twins.

Colabello is pushing 32 now. He's been a long time waiting for his shot, and his best opportunity with the Twins went awry in 2014 when he injured his thumb and tried to play through it. The Twins let him go, He landed with Toronto, made the roster out of spring training, and was playing a lot of outfield for the Jays when the Twins first saw them in May.

Colabello is miscast as an outfielder, and when the Jays acquired Revere from the Phillies in July Colabello lost most of that portion of his playing time. Revere and Colabello are pretty much opposite players. Revere is small, speedy, left-handed, a singles hitter; Colabello is big, slow, right-handed, a power threat. Playing Revere over Colabello is about the Jays needing his specific skill set.

Before the All-Star Game, Colabello had 221 plate appearances and hit .325/.371/.500, a very strong slash line. After the All-Star Game, his playing time fell off (139 PA) but his production did not (.315/.360/.551).

The Jays didn't have to reduce Colabello's playing time to get Revere into the lineup. They could have made him the first baseman. Instead he splits playing time with Justin Smoak, who hit .226/.299/.470. Even granting that Smoak is a better defensive first baseman, it's difficult to see that his glove makes up for the hitting difference.

But the core of the Jays lineup is heavily right handed. Josh Donaldson, Jose Batista, Edwin Encarncion, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin -- all right handed. Smoak is a switch hitter, so he gives the Jays a left-handed stick with some power to balance out the right-handed sluggers. It's the skill set issue again. Colabello is a right-handed slugger on a team with a surplus of right-handed sluggers, and that limits him now to a platoon role.

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