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Christian Colon was the 4th overall pick of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Kansas City Royals and seemed like a sure bet to be the Royals second baseman of the future at the time. It seemed by this point he would be with the team, as the prevalent thought was he was farther advanced because of him playing in college and not needing the same kind of time a high school player normally gets. But as of today, Colon not only hasn’t set foot in the major leagues, he isn’t even assured that will happen anytime in the near future. So how did Colon go from a ‘sure thing’ to a giant question mark?

Royals 2011 Spring game vs. Diamondbacks

When Colon was drafted, he played shortstop at Cal State Fullerton, but his defense was so good that Royals management and scouts thought he could easily shift over to second base, where the team really had more of a glaring need.  Coming out of college, Colon seemed a sure bet to be in the majors in short time. Here are just a few samplings:

Keith Law at ESPN.com

Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon has been, in the scouting vernacular, “a guy” since he was a high school senior, when he was one of the better players on the summer showcase circuit but went to Fullerton due to signability and concerns about whether a player as slow-footed as he is could play shortstop in pro ball. Since then he’s established himself as a likely first-rounder in 2010 because he has shown he can play the position despite his lack of foot speed – he’s a 30 runner – with good range and great hands to make up for the lack of quickness.

 

At the plate, Colon is usually pretty short to the ball with below-average power and a sound approach, although he occasionally gets into trouble when he lengthens his swing to get coverage on the outer half, at which point he’s more likely to hit the ball in the air instead of spraying the field with line drives.

Aaron Fitt at BaseballAmerica.com (August 24, 2009)

Whenever coaches and scouts talk about Christian Colon, they invariably start and finish with praise for his baseball IQ, instincts, leadership skills and confidence. Colon is just a darn good baseball player, they’ll say, a born winner who simply finds a way to get the job done.

Amidst the kudos for Colon’s intangibles and makeup, it’s easy to overlook his talent, and his production. A second-team All-American as Cal State Fullerton’s sophomore shortstop this spring, Colon ratcheted his game to another level this summer, hitting .362/.459/.617 and leading Team USA in slugging, home runs (five), RBIs (37), runs (31) and stolen bases (24 in 26 attempts). He also drew 11 walks and struck out a team-low six times despite registering a team-high 94 at-bats.

For his impressive offensive production—and, yes, for his valuable leadership—Colon is Baseball America’s Summer Player of the Year.

Scouting Report at BaseballRumorMill.com

Colon is a spray hitter, with ability to make consistent contact and hit to all fields. He doesn’t have much power, though he has shown the ability to hit the gaps on occasion. His pure speed grades out as average or a tick below. Colon makes the most of what speed he does have with good base-running instincts. He has an above-average arm at shortstop. Colon is a very sure-handed and reliable middle infielder. There are other shortstops with better range, but Colon makes all the plays. Colon earns the compliment of being termed a real “baseball player” because of his fine instincts on the field. His bat and lack of projection. Colon is solid in all aspects of the game, but doesn’t have a tool that truly stands out.

Jason A Churchill & Keith Law at ESPN.com

He could be their (Royals) starter in a year and offers above average defense, on-base skills and power, relative to the position. I like the pick, despite it being a slight reach in terms of raw talent.

 

So from all of that, it seemed his lack of foot speed could be made up by great hands, good range and a splendid baseball IQ. This isn’t really praise that baseball experts throw around to just anybody, and the pick seemed to be one to help the very near future for the Royals, when Dayton Moore believed they would be competing(before Moore changed his mind on just how long the ‘Process’ would actually take). He might not have panned out to be an All-Star, but the overall consensus was that he would be a productive major leaguer that would play pretty good defense and be a solid hitter.

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Now, that all sounds okay, especially with the second base carousel we’ve seen in Kansas City the last couple seasons. But here is where part of the problem lied: this was the Royals first round pick at #4. NUMBER 4!! Here is just a sampling of who was picked after Colon in the 2010 draft: Matt Harvey(7th pick), Yasmani Grandal(12th pick), Chris Sale(13th pick) and Christian Yelich(23rd pick). Obviously, out of those four that have reached the majors, Harvey and Sale will make someone wince at would could have been. The existing thought at the time was that the team needed middle infield help and Colon would be a fast rise to the big leagues. I’ve always been a proponent of picking the best player, in spite of if that spot is filled at the big league level, as you can always move the player to a different position or use that player as trade bait. Hell, you could sour on the initial person and end up trading them to make room for the prospect. The point being you shouldn’t draft by need as much as who is the best player available. Colon seemed like a fine draft pick, just maybe not one at #4. Yes, it is made worse by Harvey and Sale having the success they have seen the last few years. But if you go by all the scouts and experts, we should have seen Colon already. Instead, we are not only waiting, but also wondering if we will ever see him at all.

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I should probably rephrase that last sentence. I think we will see him at some point, just maybe not as a starting second baseman for the club. His defense has pretty much stayed the same over the last four years, but his hitting just hasn’t come around. Here is what Baseball America said about Colon in their 2012 draft report:

He’s a skilled hitter who hits behind runners, bunts and executes the hit-and-runs effectively. Defensively, Colon’s range is limited, and his speed and arm are below-average for a shortstop. He does exhibit fluid and quick fielding actions and his playmaking ability is outstanding. His frame offers little room for projection, and offensively he can be streaky. For scouts who focus on what he can do, his tremendous hands and footwork, as well as his bat control, make him a future big league regular, best suited as an offensive second baseman.

Now, you can see that they seem him as a big league regular. But there is one little addition to this that is forgotten. Colon finally had a breakout offensive season in 2012, where he played mostly in AA Northwest Arkansas. The problem is that everyone seems to have great seasons for NW Arkansas. It is in the notorious Texas League, which has always been an offensive league. So yes, he did have a good 2012 that helped elevate his standing. But how much of it is factored on the league he played in?

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I think it plays a factor, but these last few weeks have made things a little more questionable. Colon has gone on a hot streak at AAA Omaha, yet his average sits at .266 with an OBP of .325. Obviously, he had been slumping so badly that even a big burst has only put his stats at average or respectable. Maybe it is adjusting to a new level, which is very possible. It’s also possible that this is just the player he is, which is average. 2013 has been the first season where he has been playing at second base on a full time basis(he played there a bit last year, gearing him up for this year), which could also play a bit into it. None of his numbers really jump out at you, which has to be of major concern for Royals management. To even go a step further, Johnny Giavotella has great minor league numbers yet can’t seem to latch on in the big leagues. The difference? Gio wasn’t a #1 draft pick. Because of that, Colon will be given every chance in the world to succeed, unlike Giavotella’s lack of real chances.

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So if I looked into my crystal ball, what do I see in Colon’s future? I think the Royals are going to give him every chance in the world to win the second base job come Spring Training 2014. I think there is a very good chance he will win the job, if for no other reason than what the other options look to be(Getz, Carroll, Giavotella, etc.). It’s obvious that the Royals have soured on Colon at least a bit, as you would think with the way he is hitting right now he could see a call up to the big club to fix the black hole at second base. Instead, they are content with calling up Irving Falu, acquiring Jamey Carroll, and playing 84 year old Miguel Tejada at the position. I have a feeling when it is all said and done, Colon will have a long major league career, but mainly as a back-up infielder. As much as Dayton Moore has had many a success with his first round picks since he became general manager of the Royals, Colon would be his one misfire. You just don’t spend a first round pick on a backup infielder. I hope I am wrong about this and Colon becomes a mainstay for the Royals for a long, long time. But the odds don’t look good. It just goes to show you that the biggest crap-shoot in sports is the Major League Baseball draft. You can think you have a sure thing when you couldn’t be farther from the truth. Right, Brien Taylor?

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