It's good to see the Twins with multiple representatives in this year's All-Star Game, as that didn't happen in 2011 or 2012. It was also nice to see former Twin Michael Cuddyer put on a good showing in last night's Home Run Derby, even if Yoenis Cespedes ultimately stole the show. But current and former Major League All-Stars excluded, Chris Colabello's video-game numbers at Triple-A and his International League All-Star selection should merit some excitement of their own.
The Twins plucked the persistent Colabello out of the Can-Am League prior to the 2012 season, and he's done nothing but rake since getting his first real chance at affiliated ball. After hitting .284/.358/.478 with 19 homers at New Britain last season, he's made International League pitching look like Pacific Coast League pitching (or maybe just little league pitching) by hitting .354/.432/.652 with 24 homers and 24 doubles on the season.
Maybe it's the sentimental fan in me that refuses to fully acknowledge how similar those numbers are to the ones Chris Parmelee posted in Triple-A last season before crumbling at the Major League level over the next calendar year, but it's hard not to want Colabello to get an extended look at the big league level and succeed. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune recently wrote that Colabello will almost certainly be the third call-up that's announced after the Triple-A All-Star Game has been completed. Phil Mackey from 1500 ESPN wondered aloud whether or not Colabello could take the first base job and run with it if Justin Morneau walks via free agency.
As Mackey pointed out on Twitter, the next two months are critical for Colabello. Sure he's too old to be considered a legitimate prospect, but he wouldn't be the first near-30-year-old right-handed slugger to break out in recent years (hello, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista). Those are lofty direct comparisons, and I'd never expect that type of outburst; I'm just pointing out recent examples of late bloomers becoming everyday regulars (though each had significant MLB experience prior to their breakouts -- something Colabello does not).
Miller noted over the weekend that Morneau had his agent approach the Twins about interest in a possible extension, and the Twins essentially said "no thanks, not right now." Morneau conceded to Miller that he's more likely to listen to offers from other teams the closer his first venture into free agency gets.
With Morneau entertaining the thought of a new team and Parmelee's dismal production and subsequent demotion to Triple-A, there's a window open for Colabello. It's a small window, and it might be more of a pipe dream, but I can't help but get sucked into a good Cinderella like his. History says that it's a bad idea to dream on Triple-A numbers, but sometimes it's more fun to ignore history and play the part of the optimist -- especially when your team is staring down the barrel of a third consecutive 90-loss season.
If Colabello gets an extended shot and doesn't come through, the Twins will have fallback options. Morneau will likely still be open to returning on a free agent deal. Parmelee could rediscover his swing at Triple-A and come back with a vengeance a la Denard Span after Spring Training 2008. The free agent market has plenty of interesting names, including Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse (just keep him away from the outfield) and Corey Hart (a nice buy-low candidate).
There are plenty of options at first base, but none seem more fun to root for than the thought of a guy who two years ago was making $4,000 per month in the Can-Am League cementing himself as a Major League regular after refusing to give up on his dream. Colabello has already defied the odds by making this a legitimate talking point... why not defy them one more time?
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve