Paul Sullivan: The Miracle Worker

As in, it's a miracle this guy's still working. Quoth Paul:

Because of circumstances beyond his control, Tyler Colvin is blocked in right field until 2012, in center field until 2013 and in left field until 2015.

Poor Tyler Colvin and his .318 OBP in nearly 1200 Double-A plate appearances. When will he ever get a legitimate shot to prove himself?*

* Keep in mind that this is the same Paul Sullivan who wrote on August 25, 2007:

(Felix) Pie has not been able to translate the success he has enjoyed at Triple A to the Cubs, despite being given several opportunities. He hit .362 at Iowa but came into Friday's game hitting .217 in three stints with the Cubs, including a .121 average against left-handers.

Pie's "several opportunities" at that time amounted to a grand total of 174 plate appearances spread over five months when he was 22. For what it's worth, in Pie's one half-season in Double-A, he put up a .304/.349/.554 (BA/OBP/SLG) line as a 20-year-old. Colvin's composite AA line (over his age 21-23 seasons): .276/.318/.461.

Look, I know the same Colvin-related pap appeared on the Cubs site, but does Sullivan really have to gorge at whatever trough the Cubs put in front of him? Given their inexplicable compulsion to become more lefthanded -- to the extent that they traded away a versatile, relatively-inexpensive fan favorite so they could pay $24 million for one season of Milton Bradley -- does he actually believe that if anyone within the Cubs thought Colvin had a shot at being a starter in the majors that he wouldn't have been given a chance? If Colvin had previously performed well -- and I'm relatively certain his performance would have to be categorized largely as a circumstance within his control -- the Cubs wouldn't have felt the need to sign that centerfielder to a 3-year deal. In theory at least.

The only people who still believe in Colvin as a prospect are the ones within the organization still defiantly standing behind their reach-pick of him in the 2006 draft. Apparently Sullivan -- who's previously shown a bizarre preoccupation with fellow great-tools-middling-results draftee Jeff Samardzija -- only looks at signing bonus when evaluating a minor leaguer.

The perception of Colvin as a non-prospect isn't just my own. This crazy site -- put together by some magnificent bastard who divined that ranking the top-2000 prospects in baseball would generate a whole lot of traffic/publicity for his little blog -- has Colvin listed as the 915th-best prospect in all of baseball. And if you prefer reputable sources, Baseball America doesn't have Colvin in their Cubs top-10. Nor does's Keith Law, and Colvin's not on Baseball Prospectus' top-15, either. And John Sickels ranked him as the Cubs 19th-best prospect -- keep in mind that the Cubs system is more top-heavy than deep -- and graded him as a C, saying, "He made some progress last year but looks more like a fourth outfielder/extra bat than a future starter to me."

Well, of course Sickels, he has to be a fourth outfielder: Because of circumstances beyond his control, he's hopelessly blocked!


Now even if Colvin played Franklin Gutierrez/Willie Mays/Andruw Jones-40-pounds-ago caliber defense in centerfield -- unlikely given that BA named Sam Fuld the best defensive outfielder in the Cubs' system -- as of now his bat just will not play at the major league level. Courtesy of this site, I found these slash stat projections for Colvin as a Cub this season:

Bill James .264 .303 .424
CAIRO .242 .289 .398
CHONE .258 .300 .407
PECOTA .258 .302 .424
ZiPS .249 .287 .394
AVG .254 .296 .409

Now granted, those numbers are on par with the Cubs' $17-million-a-year-until-he-turns-62 leftfielder, but in general that is not starting-caliber production. Speaking of which:

Long-terms contracts to Kosuke Fukudome, Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano, respectively, have clogged the outfield picture for the foreseeable future.

With the possible exception of Soriano -- and I exclude him only because Jim Hendry seems wholly unable to grasp the concept of a sunk cost -- none of those guys are blocking Colvin; Colvin's lack of production is. Besides, in the Cubs' eyes, this is make-or-break time for Fukudome. If he doesn't produce this season, they likely will eat his contract next year, either paying someone to take him or moving him for someone else's onerous deal -- Hey, Milton Bradley will still have a year left. We gotta get more lefthanded! And Byrd is making "only" $16.5 million over the next three years; believe me, if the Cubs have a hot-shot prospect forcing his way into the lineup, ol' Marlon will not be an impediment.

Actually, the Cubs just might have such a prospect, only his name is Brett Jackson (No. 2 by Law and BA, No. 3 by Sickels, No. 4 by BP). Jackson, incidentally, is never mentioned in this article either because A) Nobody with the Cubs has felt the need to pump him up to Sullivan, since people who actually know what they're talking about are already saying he's a legit prospect; or B):

Colvin, a first-round pick in 2006, has been one of the most impressive players in Cubs camp, hitting .556 after going 2-for-3 with a triple in Friday's 12-3 loss to Milwaukee.

Wow, in a whole 18 plate appearances! In other news, if Derrek Lee can just get 600 PAs in 2010, he will undoubtedly shatter Barry Bonds' single-season record with the first-ever 100-home-run season, because he has two homers in 12 spring training trips to the plate.

The Cubs project Colvin as a corner outfielder and he figures to take over in right when Fukudome's contract ends after 2011. But he has been playing center most of the spring and could make the team as a fifth outfielder.

If anyone in the Cubs' hierarchy really thinks that Colvin's bat will ever play in a corner outfield spot, seriously just shoot me now and get it over with.

Could the Cubs get Colvin enough playing time as a reserve outfielder, or is he better off going to Triple-A, where he would play regularly? A week ago, the answer was easy.

But suddenly Colvin has jumped into the picture.

For the love of God, Sully -- and I call you Sully because I feel like we've really bonded over the course of this post -- please don't tell me the Cubs are evaluating personnel based on a week of stats put up against mostly non-major-league pitchers who aren't even in game shape yet. I mean, there's only so much I can take.

The Cubs are expected to send a dozen or so players to minor-league camp early next week, but Colvin is likely to stay a little longer. He bulked up in the offseason, and it's paying off. ...

Colvin was on his way to play in Mexico before the Cubs asked him if he wanted to take the offseason off and train with strength coach Tim Buss at the Cubs complex in Mesa, Ariz. Calling it a "no-brainer," Colvin put on 25 pounds through lifting and "eating my fiance's cooking every night."

Two questions: 1. Was his fiance cooking HGH? 2. Is her maiden name Conte? If the answer to both of these is no, then forget it. Because unless what he's done can actually enhance his performance instead of just increasing his bulk, Colvin still will not be a productive major leaguer.

Look, I don't want to wish ill on Colvin; still, I'd prefer he sustain a good performance -- I don't know, for a prolonged period of time, maybe. In, let's say, games that actually count -- before we start lamenting his not-really-all-that-blocked path to big-league stardom.

But if the Cubs are making decisions based on a single week's performance then this organization is in more trouble than even I believed, and they're going to have to do more than just replace GM Jim Hendry; they'll need to bring in some sort of miracle worker.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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