Chris Colabello was last week named Rookie of the Year in the International League. Suffice it to say it was a bit of a surprise that a guy in his age 29 season was considered a rookie, but it is technically true considering he'd never been to Triple-A before. But it was also a surprise, not just because of the 39 games he's now played with the Minnesota Twins but also because two years ago he was playing independent league baseball. With the Worcester Tornadoes. For the Canadian-American Association.
Of course, he won that league's MVP award that season by hitting .348/.410/.600. This season, in 89 game with the Red Wings, he managed to top even that by belting a triple slash of .352/.427/.639.
Things haven't been quite as easy with the Twins. He's struck out 45 times in 39 games and has, sometimes for games in a row, looked over-matched. Even though he's 29 that shouldn't be a surprise considering the drastic upswing in the level of competition he's experienced over the last two seasons, but it's still true. Sometimes, though...sometimes, he almost gets into a groove.
Monday's two-homer, five-RBI day is one great example. Colabello is now riding a four-game hitting streak, seeing him go 6-for-16 with six strikeouts but three walks as well.
Going back to those home runs, I know I'm not the only one to notice that Colabello hasn't pulled a single one. Which is only a little bit odd. When you put together a list of right-handed, home run-capable Twins in Target Field, you get a relatively short list: Michael Cuddyer, Danny Valencia, Josh Willingham, Trevor Plouffe. And now, perhaps, Brian Dozier as well. All of them are big pull hitters when it comes to hitting home runs.
Colabello, on the other hand, has hit one to straightaway center field and five into, more or less, the right-center field gap. On the season he's slugging .714 to center field, .880 to right field, and just .130 to left field.
Perhaps it's pitch location which is a big part of the equation, but if that's what it is then sooner rather than later pitchers will try to jam him inside. They'll see the splits and see the spray charts and the calculated results, and they'll force Colabello to show them that he can turn around on inside stuff. Which is basically the opposite of what happened to guys like Valencia and Plouffe and, to an extend, Lew Ford: the scouting report was passed around - don't pitch these guys inside - and success was fleeting when the player couldn't adjust.
Maybe it'll be this month or maybe it'll be early next season, but for a guy already climbing a steep learning curve I'm intrigued to see how he adjusts to MLB pitchers attacking him more often on the inner third. We've seen what Colabello can do when pitchers leave meatballs hanging over the middle of the plate.
There aren't many guys with the power to consistently go the other way with every single long ball launched off their bat. Can he be a serviceable piece of the future for the Twins?