Apr 17, 2014. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
After 17 games, the Minnesota Twins are still tied for second in the AL in total runs scored and a massive reason for that is the production of Chris Colabello. After nearly being sold to South Korea to play professional baseball in the offseason, Colabello is proving again and again that his decision to pursue his dreams as a MLB player was absolutely correct. He not only leads the Twins with 19 RBIs but he leads the entire American League by a four RBI cushion. He’s already collected eight multi-hit games and sits with a .359 batting average, which bumps up to .438 with runners in scoring position (RISP), and then incredibly bumps up even higher to .625 with RISP and two outs. Simply put, Colabello is playing like a madman and is carving out a permanent space in the lineup (defensive blunders aside, like the misplayed Billy Butler line drive over his head in Saturday’s game).
Colabello made the Twins lineup out of Spring Training as a right handed power bat coming off the bench because of a great Spring Training. Only a year ago Colabello was a replacement level talent who couldn’t translate his Triple AAA mastery (which earned him the International League MVP) to the major leagues. But now because of his play and injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia, he has played in every single game and started 16 of them, a trend which isn’t likely to end if he keeps playing like he is. Even the eventual return of Willingham and Arcia shouldn’t knock him from his current cleanup spot.
Colabello is a big man and hits with a powerful bat, something that is required for his opposite field homerun ability. He flashed some of that power last year with 7 homeruns for the Twins but couldn’t do much else with only 31 hits in 160 ABs (he already has 23 hits in 64 ABs in 2014). So what has changed?
There have been reports that he worked on shortening up his swing and standing closer to the plate during the offseason, and whether it is because of those mechanical fixes or just situational maturity and awareness, Colabello looks like a different hitter. If you look at his spray chart from 2013, you can see his batted balls are skewed way to right field, with really only groundball outs to his pull side. But his early 2014 spray chart shows a much more balanced attack, with hits going to all fields. Nobody needs to be reminded how valuable hitting to all fields is, especially since it forces defensives to be honest and not shift one way or another. As long as Colabello can continue to use the entire field, he’ll keep racking up hits.
It is still very early in the season and eventually Colabello’s numbers will come back down to earth. Chris says he strives to be a great all-around hitter who hits over .300, something that certainly seems achievable at this point if he can keep his strikeouts down. But he will not continue to hit over .600 with RISP and Two Outs, or even over .400 with RISP. That just isn’t done at the big league level over the course of an entire season. However, it isn’t unreasonable to continue to expect him to be a big-time presence in the middle of the Twins order, possibly even someone who starts getting pitched around in big situations.
Until that time though, let’s just sit back and see how long Chris Colabello can continue to drive in everything that he can see!