Tyler Colvin Could Play 1st Base Before Season Ends

Posted by Matt Clapp | 8/19/2010 01:19:00 PM | ,

I just wrote about the possibility of rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin being an option for first base in 2011, but I thought it was something that would be explored in the offseason, not immediately. But when the playoff hopes are long gone, why not give Colvin a chance to get some playing time there this season? It sounds like that could happen.

Cubs television play-by-play announcer, Len Kasper, said during today's Cubs-Padres broadcast that Colvin took some infield practice at first base before the game today, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the season. Kasper even said that it's likely we will see Colvin in a game before the season ends.

So, if you didn't have a reason to watch this horrible team for the remainder of the season(my reason is Starlin Castro right now), well, maybe you do now if Colvin gets a chance to play first base.

BallHype: hype it up! submit to reddit Get The Latest Blogfines Updates By Following Us On Twitter.

With the trade of Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves, the Cubs are left with a huge hole at first base for the future. Micah Hoffpauir, Xavier Nady, and Jeff Baker as the only capable of players to man the position on the team. None of them are starting caliber players on a team that wishes to contend, and certainly none of them are long-term solutions at the position.

And down on the farm, there don't appear to be any quality solutions either, at least for the 2011 season. So it would appear on the surface that the Cubs would almost certainly address the first base position through the upcoming free agency, or trade this offseason.

But maybe there is indeed an in-house possibility to be the first baseman for 2011, and even longer: Tyler Colvin.

Now, Colvin is an outfielder, and hasn't played first base since high school. However, the left-hander is tall, quick, good with the glove, and just seems like the ideal "type" of player to play the position.

Whatever the case, Colvin is at least fine with giving first base a try if that's what the Cubs want:

"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."

Link(Chicago Tribune)

If the Cubs really are considering this, they will give Colvin a full Spring Training at first base before they would feel comfortable making him a regular there, and it's quite unlikely that they would go into Spring Training with the assumption that he will be capable of playing the position come Opening Day. Therefore, they would likely have at least a solid veteran( on the club at that point as well, in case the Colvin experiment at first base were to fail.

There's much more to keep in mind with this Colvin-to-first base talk as well. Here's some thoughts that immediately came to mind for me:

1. Even if Colvin shows the ability to play first base in Spring Training, do the Cubs feel comfortable tossing him out there immediately alongside a poor defensive infield surrounding him? It's not easy handling the throws Aramis Ramirez and Starlin Castro(who currently has 18 errors) would fire his way from the left side of the infield. Derrek Lee, a three-time Gold Glove winner, saved the Cubs' infield of many, many errors over the years.

2. Aside from the obvious positives of being able to play multiple positions and giving the manager flexibility, is there really a great reason to change Colvin's primary position from right field to first base? Unless the Cubs feel they can upgrade the offense easier with a new right fielder instead of a new first baseman, it would be an odd decision to go this route, especially with Colvin having zero professional experience at the position.

3. Going along with the thoughts of #2- If the Cubs do this, they better be finding a terrific hitter to play right field. Colvin's impressed this season, his rookie year. In 316 plate appearances so far, he's batting .251, with 18 homers(leads all rookies), a .521 slugging percentage, and an .821 OPS.

But there's question marks as to whether or not Colvin is really is this much of a power hitter, as he never hit for much power in the past(although he did put on approximately 30 pounds of muscle in the offseason, so an improvement in the power department should have been expected). Additionally, he must improve his patience(only 24 walks and a .310 on-base percentage), and the ability to hit, and in many instances simply lay off breaking balls.

Unless the Cubs find a major offensive upgrade at say, second base, they don't want to go into the 2011 with questionable bats at first base and right field, two premier positions to find run producers.

4. Kosuke Fukudome could have an impact on this. The Cubs will likely try hard to unload Fukudome and at least some of the $13.5 million he's owed in 2011, the last year of his contract. If they are unable to do so, he'll be back on the team in 2011, and his primary position is right field. If the Cubs are paying if that much money, there's no way he'll ride the bench all season. So to find a way to get both Fukudome and Colvin in the lineup on a regular basis, moving Colvin to first base makes sense.

We'll surely be hearing much more of this Colvin/first base talk over the next few months, and if the Cubs surprisingly do choose to go that route, it's going to be very interesting to see how Colvin handles the position.

BallHype: hype it up! submit to reddit Get The Latest Blogfines Updates By Following Us On Twitter.

UPDATE: First baseman Derrek Lee has indeed been dealt to the Atlanta Braves. In return for the two-time All-Star, the Cubs received three pitching prospects: Robinson Lopez, Tyrelle Harris, and Jeffrey Lorick. The Braves also received cash consideratoins in the deal.

As for the prospects headed the Cubs way...

Robinson Lopez(6'2", 190 pounds) is a 19-year-old right-hander that went 3-8, with a 4.37 ERA in Single-A ball for the Braves this season. He started 16 of the 24 games that he pitched in, totaling 92 2/3 innings. He struck out 7o batters, walked 43, and put together a 1.371 WHIP on the season.

Tyrelle Harris(6'4", 234 pounds) was a 19th round selection by the Braves in the 2009 draft. The 23-year-old right-hander came out of the bullpen for all but one game in the Braves system over the last two years, so they clearly viewed him as a reliever. His minor league career totals include a 2.42 ERA, 84 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched(11.3 K/9 IP), a 1.19 WHIP, and no home runs allowed. He was last at Double-A, where he had a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched.

Jeffrey Lorick(6'0", 195 pounds) is a 22-year-old left-hander that has pitched very well with two clubs in Single-A this season. Lorick, a 20th round selection by the Braves in 2009, combined to have a 2.24 ERA, with 42 strikeouts, 21 walks, and a 1.223 WHIP in 52.1 innings pitched for the two clubs. He started just seven of 44 games pitched in the minors, so he also figures to be a reliever.

To replace Lee on the roster, the Cubs called up first baseman Micah Hoffpauir from Iowa. He and Xavier Nady will split time at first base for the remainder of the season. Jim Hendry and the Cubs' front office are surely looking at the free agents and potential trade targets already to fix the huge hole at first base this offseason.

Earlier: The Cubs and Braves are reportedly close to a trade that would send first baseman Derrek Lee to Atlanta for prospects, according to various reports.

ESPN.Com's Jerry Crasnick has given us some updates on Twitter in regards to the possible trade:

Braves and Cubs are "way along in the process'' on a Derrek Lee trade, says a baseball source. Deal could go down today or tomorrow.

Lee is apparently willing to sign off on the deal. The big issue now is which players Chicago will receive in return.

I was told Cubs are likely to receive lower-level prospects. Braves aren't going to deal Beachy, Teheran or other higher-level prospects.

Braves consider Lee a strong 2nd half player, and they like the thought of Glaus as a RH bat off bench. Lee also upgrades 1B defense.

Link(Jerry Crasnick's Twitter)

Lee would have to waive his no-trade clause to allow a deal to happen, something he was not willing to do in July when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tried to acquire him from the Cubs. As Crasnick said, Lee appears willing to do that now for a Braves team that currently is in first place by two and a half games in the National League East.

The two-time All-Star will be a free agent(projected to be a type-B) and 35 years old at season's end, and a Cubs team headed nowhere would like to get something back for Lee now before they presumably let him walk in the offseason. Ideally, the Cubs get quality prospects in return and the Braves eat what remains(approximately $3.4 million) on the $13 million Lee is owed for 2010. While it appears the Braves would be willing to pay for Lee's remaining salary for the season, it does not sound as if the Cubs will get any of the Braves' top-tier prospects in return as Crasnick reported.

Lee is batting .251, with 16 home runs, 56 RBI, and a .751 OPS on the season. It has been a disappointing season for a guy that was one of the best hitters in baseball in 2009(.305 batting average, 35 home runs, 111 RBI, .972 OPS) but he has been much better over the last two months, including a .306 batting average, with four home runs and a 1.075 OPS so far in August. He will definitely upgrade the Braves defensively at first base, and could give an offense that just lost Chipper Jones for the season a nice boost as well.

Trading Lee would end(we would assume) his outstanding career as a Cub, and would officially put the Cubs on search for a replacement at the position. There do not appear to be any quality in-house replacements for Lee at the position, so the Cubs will likely address this through free agency or trade in the offseason.

We will update you on this story as we hear more.

BallHype: hype it up! submit to reddit

Could Aramis Ramirez Replace Chipper Jones In Atlanta?

Braves Targeting Aramis Ramirez? (The Cub Reporter)

Cubs Sign Four More Draft Picks At The Deadline
(Bleacher Nation)

Ricketts Family Needs A Loose Cannon (Tales From Aisle 424)

Rookie Of The Year Race... Where Does Starlin Castro Stand?
(GoatRiders Of The Apocalypse)

Jeff Samardzija Is Now 10-2 In Iowa (Bleed Cubbie Blue)

BallHype: hype it up! submit to reddit Get The Latest Blogfines Updates By Following Us On Twitter.