Is Tyler Colvin A Poor Man’s Jayson Werth?

by Kyle Johansen

As Jayson Werth signing in Washington has undoubtedly decreased his value, Tyler Colvin looks to get a boost as the Cubs are now “aggressively shopping” Kosuke Fukudome, who possibly prevents Colvin from every day at bats in 2011.   Colvin had an impressive rookie season at age 24, similar to Werth’s first regular action as a 25-year-old in 2004.  First, a look at Colvin’s 2010 season:

358 AB
.254 BA (.296 BABIP)
.316 OBP
.500 SLG
60 Runs
20 HR
56 RBI
6 SB (1 CS)

The first stats that jump out are the 20 homers and .500 SLG (incredible .246 ISO).  It’s also worth noting that he was able to score 60 runs in just over half a season’s worth of at bats.

Compare this season to Werth’s 2004: .262/.338/.486 (.316 BABIP) with 16 homers and 4 steals.  Werth similarly featured an impressive ISO that year of .224. 

Further similarities lie in the rate at which both players strike out.  Werth, for his career, strikes out in 28.9% of his at bats.  Colvin’s strikeout rate was 27.9% in 2010. 

The difference between the two is Werth’s strikezone judgement.  Werth has a career walk rate of 12.3% and was walking at a 12.2% clip as soon as 2005.  Colvin had an unimpressive 7.6% walk rate in 2010 and this was actually an encouraging sign as it was an improvement over his minor league numbers.  If Colvin can continue to improve in this area, his batting average potential will be just as high as Werth’s, but for now the low walk rate combined with the high strikeout rate is the biggest red flag for Colvin.

Another potential red flag is that the season following Werth’s breakout 2004, he seriously regressed hitting only 7 home runs in 395 at bats during 2005.  While this has nothing to do with Colvin’s path, it just shows that regression for young players is a possibility. 

However, because Colvin appears to be more advanced for his age than Werth was, I believe his upside is Werth’s first look at regular playing time in 2008 when he went .273/.363/.498 with 24 home runs and 20 stolen bases.  Colvin has stolen as many as 17 bases in a minor league season and his success rate last year shows that he knows what he’s doing on the base paths. 

As long as Kosuke Fukudome is a member of the Cubs, projecting Colvin is an impossibility and his value takes a serious hit.  However, if the Cubs are successful in moving Fukudome, Colvin will see every day at bats and could be a cheap source of power to go with some speed.

What are your thoughts of Colvin?  Is he worth owning in all formats?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:

13 comments

  1. Frank Kim says:

    Wasn’t Werth a catcher too at first which might have slowed down his batting maturation? Not sure about that.
    Also Werth broke his wrist in spring training in 2005 which might explain his regression in 2005.
    And finally Werth strikes me as quite an athlete. I haven’t gotten that impression about Colvin yet though I might be wrong. What do you think?

  2. Kyle Johansen says:

    Colvin was Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken’s first draft pick and Wilken has been known and sometimes criticized for taking the best athletess. Colvin in the first round was a reach for most but athleticism is not something he lacks. He added 20 pounds of muscle last offseason and I think the power is somewhat sustainable. Thanks for the note on Werth’s wrist, that definitely explains an odd outlier.

  3. Brock Sampson says:

    Considering that Colvin never even managed to put up a .200 ISO since his first days in Low-A Ball(.215 ISO in ’06), I think it’s more than a little unreasonable to expect any kind of progression from his .246 ISO mark, or even a leveling-off.

    I think Colvin is going to fall hard compared to last year, and it’s not going to be pretty.

    His real value is that he can perform on par with all the OF currently on the Cubs roster, and he does it for league minimum. Great for real baseball, not so much for fantasy.

  4. Kyle Johansen says:

    Brock, are you forgetting the .225 ISO he put up in 330 PA at Double-A in 2009? In his first two professional levels he posted and ISO above .200 in ’06 and ’07, so he has been showing power potential for a while. With a .225 in ’09 at AA and a .246 in 2010, at the very least one would expect another .200+ mark. His 19.4% HR/FB will definitely regress, but even so, he hit his 20 homers in just 358 at bats, compared to say Ike Davis who hit his 19 in 523 ab. With 500+ ab, Colvin should produce 20+ HR again.

  5. Brock Sampson says:

    No, I didn’t forget his AA numbers in 2009. I simply chose to combine all his 2009 numbers, including the 129 PA’s in High-A where he put up a .107 ISO. I think it’s disingenuous to leave it out.

    And his ISO in ’07 was .189, which is not over .200.

  6. Kyle Johansen says:

    In referring to his 2007 ISO, I said that “in his first two professional levels” which were low-A in 2006 and high-A in 2007. At high-A in 2007 his ISO was .208. Upon promotion to double-A that year his ISO was .170. Not too bad for your first taste of double-A at 21-years-old. Point being, he has displayed increasing power, and his ISO has been at or around .200 his entire professional career.

  7. Josh says:

    One thing to remember about Colvin’s ISO from last season is he gained about 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, from what I read.

  8. Brock Sampson says:

    Yeah, I saw the “professional levels” label, which to me just looked like a nice way to cherry-pick some pretty stats and turn a blind eye to others.

    But you are right, .170 ISO isn’t shabby for a guy’s first taste of AA-ball. However, in comparison, the nearly-identical .168 ISO in 600 PA’s he had in AA in 2008 does look a little bad, doesn’t it?

    In all his 1868 PA’s in the minors, he put up a .188 ISO.
    In just his 1189 PA’s in AA-ball, he put up a .185 ISO.
    Now he comes to the bigs and throws up an ISO around .250 in 400 PA’s.

    I just don’t see how that can be considered a sustainable number. Combined with his inability to walk and the potential to rival Dunn and Reynolds in strikeout totals, I see a recipe for major regression here.

  9. Kyle Johansen says:

    See I see taking a random 129 PA sample from high-A in 2009 when he had a .107 ISO as cherry-picking since in twice the PA’s at high-A two years earlier his ISO was .208. A random 129 PA sample seems like an outlider to me, especially since he then went on to better competition with nearly three times the AB’s and put up the .225 ISO later that year.

    His frame has filled out, and that was part of his projectability as a prospect. The added strength has clearly added power. While I have stated all along he will regress from his .246 ISO and HR every 19 at bats, the stats you’re referencing, .188 total minor league ISO, is well above league average, and says 20 homers is attainable.

  10. Brock Sampson says:

    We both know there’s nothing “random” about those stats. You want to brush them aside because they don’t fit with your conclusions, but it doesn’t work that way. We aren’t talking about high school years here, it was only 2 seasons ago. Those so-called “random” stats are relevant.

    I can’t see him reaching 20 HR’s unless a great many things go right, on the field and off (and of course the first of those things is finding some schmuck to take on Fukudome’s absurd contract). Given a full season of playing time, I’ll be happy with 15HR and 10 SB. Anything more than that would just be a pleasant surprise.

  11. Kyle Johansen says:

    Colvin was coming off of Tommy John surgery and that was why he began the season in 2009 at high-A. A 112 at bat sample is basically meaningless on the heels of major surgery. I think the 300+ at bats at Double-A later that year is much more indicative of Colvin’s true talent, and this proved to be the case in 2010.

  12. joe drew says:

    What’s with all the emphasis on ISO? Carlos Pena had .211 (pretty good) ISO with a.196 AVG and .404 SLG. ISO doesn’t tell enough of the story. Give me OPS any day, which colvin needs to improve as a whole. I’m more concerned that the walk rate come around than whether his ISO will hold steady. If he can improve his OBP, I believe he can hit 25 homers. period.

  13. Kyle Johansen says:

    Carlos Pena had an incredibly bad year, but with his .211 ISO came 28 HR. I’m only pointing to ISO as a indicator of HR potential.

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