Blue Jays Everyday First Baseman: Chris Colabello?
By Shaun Doyle
Chris Colabello is bound to regress. He can’t continue his performance for the Blue Jays; not at this level. That’s what people said. But, he just went and shook, shook, shook it off. It’s something that he’s been doing his whole career. And, now the Blue Jays have an interesting choice to make at first base. Is Colabello their everyday firstbaseman moving forward?
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Writing for Baseball America, Alexis Brudnicki, did a great job of highlighting Colabello’s past. He’s had to fight his way through independent ball, through AA and then to the big leagues. When he finally broke through with the Minnesota Twins, he started hot. He set the club record for RBI in a month with 29 in April of 2014. Then he hurt his thumb. He tried to push through nerve damage, afraid to lose his spot that he’d worked so hard to get. But, the injury derailed his season.
Enter the Blue Jays. Always looking for that
lightning in a bottle pick up, they claimed Colabello in December in a move that was more “huh” than “yay”. No one really knew what they’d get from the 31 yr old journeyman. And, when Justin Smoak was added to the equation, the picture became even less clear.
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But, Colabello made the most of his early opportunities after starting the year in Buffalo. And, he was doing so while riding an unbelievable BABIP. He’d end 2015 with a .411 mark. To some, this mark indicated that he was simply lucky and as such, there is no way he could maintain it. Indeed, the doubters were out there. Now, here we are at the end of the season looking at a guy who earned his spot on the ALDS and ALCS rosters as the starting firstbaseman.
The question now becomes, “Has he done enough to keep that role for next season?” It would appear that the club felt strongly enough in his abilities to go with him in the postseason and that they very well could be leaning that way. Colabello enters 2016 at the age of 32. He’s not even eligible for arbitration until 2017. So, he’d be a cost effective solution, for sure. According to Fangraphs.com, his 2015 showing was worth $6.7M. He made the league minimum. He’s certainly been a bargain.
In Colabello, the Blue Jays would be getting a contact hitter that puts together good at bats and puts the ball in play, even if he strikes out at a surprising 26.7%. His .321 average (buoyed by his BABIP, of course) are welcome. He hit 15 HR and drove in 55. Those are good numbers. But, are they numbers you want to see form a first baseman? You’d ideally like to see more power out of the position. His .198 ISO mark is a bit low. But, can this club carry a “lighter” hitting 1B? Perhaps.
Some might also suggest that the club capitalize on his successful season and offer him up as trade bait. Perhaps, he could bring in some bullpen help. The club also has Smoak heading for arbitration in 2016. But, they might be better off keeping this two headed monster in tact. A while ago, I wrote about the value this combination brings. It might be worth keeping it together, considering the other areas this club will need to address.
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Now that Colabello has shown what he’s capable of over a full season, he has forced himself into the conversation for next season. We won’t be seeing the left field experiment any time soon. Instead, we could be seeing him bring his glove to first base. He represents a guy who is ‘good enough’ to play there everyday. His defense is OK. He was worth -5 DRS with a UZR/150 of -5.6. And, that is pretty much the point. Colabello has shown that he is good enough to play there and be in the lineup.
The question will be whether “good enough” is good enough for the Blue Jays in 2016. They’ll have a lot of financial decisions to make this winter. Perhaps one of the smarter decisions will be to go with the cheaper version of a first baseman. Colabello doesn’t represent the ideal first baseman. But, he has earned a seat at the conversation table.
What do you think? Would you go with Chris Colabello as your everyday first baseman next season?
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