One of the few bright spots this season has been the emergence of Tyler Colvin. Colvin's success was pretty unexpected - he's putting up numbers that he didn't show any indication of in the minors, suddenly exploding with new found power.
Given his unexpected success, it's hard to know what to expect of him going forward. MB21 over at Another Cubs Blog wrote a great article comparing Colvin's age 24 season to Alfonso Soriano's age 25 season - definitely an optimistic comp but he makes a good case.
For me though, Colvin's season is eerily similar to a different Cubs prospect. That prospect had a breakout couple of years, playing excellent outfield defense, mashing a bunch of home runs, and striking out a lot. Like Colvin, a lot of people had high hopes, and ignored a lot of troubling signs in his peripherals. I'm talking of course about Corey Patterson.
Patterson has become a synonym for "failed prospect" in Cubsdom, which is a little unfair. It's easy to forget that Patterson was good enough to produce a 7.5 WAR over his first 3 seasons, in part because of his excellent defense but also because of his ability to hit the ball well. Unfortunately by 2005 Patterson was being booed regularly, mostly becuase of his inability to not swing at bad pitches, something that he only ever got worse at.
For the sake of comparison, we'll look at Colvin and Patterson's age 24 seasons:
Starting a trend that will continue through this exercise, Colvin and Patterson's age 24 triple slashes are eerily similar. Colvin's slugging is 50 points higher, which is pretty significant, and we'll get into that more later. But superficially the rest is really similar.
What about their splits?
|AVG vs LHP||AVG vs RHP||OPS vs LHP||OPS vs RHP|
Colvin is definitely hitting righties harder, which is part of the big difference in their slugging overall, but otherwise they're nearly identical. At this point in their careers, netiher are exhibiting severe splits.
It's interesting to note that in the year following this, Patterson's splits against lefties completely collapsed - he only batted .168 against lefties in 2005.
So far though, they're exceeding similar. Let's look a little deeper at what they were doing in each at bat:
Again, you see some striking similarities, as well as one big difference: even though they're both walking, striking out, and hitting fly balls at about the same rate, a lot more of Colvin's fly balls are turning into home runs. This again is the main cause of their overall difference in slugging - Colvin's just able to hit the ball a little further. Interestingly, most of this difference came against right handed pitching - their HR/FB vs LHP is pretty close (16.0 % vs 17.6 %) but vs RHP Colvin is significantly better (12.8 % vs 20.3 %).
What about pitch selection? Let's see how they compare from pitch to pitch:
A lot of similarity here once again. Both are above average fastball hitters, and average to below average everywhere else. Neither one of them handle breaking stuff particularly well, Colvin struggling particularly with sliders. Patterson definitely saw a lot more fastballs, probably the start of what turned out to be his fatal flaw - chasing the high ones.
Speaking of which - there's probably no need to even look at plate discipline. I mean we all know that Patterson never met a pitch he didn't like, I'm sure he's much worse than Colvin:
Oh crap. Despite nearly identical swing and contact rates, Colvin is chasing almost twice as much stuff outside of the strike zone as Patterson. Colvin's in late-period Soriano territory here, not a good place to be unless you're so unbelievably good at chasing balls that people refer to you by just one name (Ichiro, Vlad, Madonna).
So, what's encouraging here: Colvin has more power, and is crushing righties in particular.
What's discouraging here: Colvin is chasing balls out of the zone at a Francouer-esque rate. While he's a good fastball hitter, he's no Soriano (whose wFB was in the 20's when he was in his mid-20's) so I worry about his ability to compensate for his lack of ability with other pitches.
I hope Colvin can succeed. But the comparison to Patterson is uncanny, which makes me worry about his future. That said, there are some key differences between them: Patterson's age 24 was his 3rd season, where Colvin's is his first. Patterson had some indications in the minors that he might struggle against lefties, where Colvin's splits have always been good.