Cubs

Colvin has handled everything thrown his way

Colvin has handled everything thrown his way

Friday, Sept. 17, 2010
Updated 11:30 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MIAMI Tyler Colvin is left-handed, 6-foot-3 and 25 years old, three reasons why he continues to work out at first base. During batting practice late Friday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium, Starlin Castro threw a ball over his head.

The Cubs like Castros defensive range, but want him to concentrate hard on the territory six feet to his left and six feet to his right, so that he consistently makes the routine plays and cuts down on his errors (26).

It appears that Colvin would make a good target at first base, though he hasnt played there since early in his career at Clemson University, and even then it was in a backup role. The Cubs dont have an immediate long-term answer at the position Xavier Nady is approaching free agency.

If youre envisioning an infield anchored by Colvin and Castro, then youll have to wait.

Before becoming manager, Mike Quades responsibilities as third-base coach included working with the outfielders. Quades seen Colvins arm and athleticism in the outfield, which has allowed the rookie to play in right, center and left.

Quade doesnt plan to play Colvin at first base this weekend in Miami, and refuses to experiment against a contender. So the only window would be the seasons final series if we wanted to have fun some fun in Houston. (It) would almost be on a whim at this point.

Its not like hes taking balls at short, Quade said. This could be a valuable thing for him someday. I just dont know if its going to be a valuable thing for him in the next two weeks.

And so the education continues for Colvin, who woke up Friday with 20 home runs, tied for the lead among all major-league rookies with Florida Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton.

Colvin generated only 15 homers last year while splitting his time between Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. He still does not view himself as a home-run hitter. He accounted for 56 in 442 career minor-league games.

Until his promotion from Double-A Jacksonville on June 8, Stanton had hit 89 homers across 323 games in the minors. When asked what it would mean to finish the season with the rookie lead in home runs, Colvin replied, Not much.

That answer basically sums up Colvin, who is friendly and accommodating and makes sure not to say anything controversial in a big media market. He hasnt complained about playing time or a potential position switch. He managed to stay out of the Steve Stone controversy when the White Sox broadcaster criticized Lou Piniella for not giving him enough at-bats.

Hes an intelligent kid, Quade said. He listens, he learns, he tries to do the right thing. (This) kid also has a lot of the intangibles that should allow him to get the most out of his ability.

Hes been through a lot and Ill be damned hes handled everything really well.

Part of it is seeing how the National League attacks your swing, making adjustments and identifying pitches. Colvin was 2-for-10 this season against Chris Carpenter when he stepped in against the former Cy Young Award winner Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

Colvin launched a 3-2 curveball 383 feet into the right-field seats for a three-run homer that was a finishing touch on a three-game sweep of the Cardinals that had analyst Jack Clark calling them quitters the next day on St. Louis radio.

Colvin had been stuck on 19 homers since Aug. 24. And his batting averageon-base percentage numbers have gone through the ups and downs: .289.365 in April; .333.367 in May; .250.280 in June; .253.330 in July; .215.271 in August; and .243.282 in September.

He processed another piece of firsthand information against Carpenter, which should help him wherever he plays in the future, and whenever he gets 500-plus plate appearances in a season.

You can go off what everybodys telling you, Colvin said, but until you get up there and experience it for yourself, thats what you got to go (with).

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

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USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here.