Now that Justin Morneau has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, there is an obvious vacancy for the Minnesota Twins at first base. I know I am not breaking any ground with that news, but the replacing of Morneau at first base and in the Twins’ lineup is something the Twins are going to need to address over the coming weeks and months before the 2014 season is slated to get under way. The sexy and trendy choice to be the heir apparent at first base is Morneau’s old sidekick—and part of the famed M&M Boys—Joe Mauer. While Mauer may be the trendy choice to play first due to his absence from the lineup and the health concerns surrounding his future, Chris Colabello is certainly staking his claim for the vacant spot at first base and may be putting himself in position to compete for a starting position next spring.
Colabello was a free agent signing for the Twins in the winter of 2011 and although he isn’t the most flashy name, he still can be serviceable for the Twins at first until a more suitable long-term resolution is reached. So far in his career, Colabello sports a .207 batting average through 39 games in the majors. Those are troubling statistics to start a career with, but Colabello has shown an improved discipline at the plate and is beginning to display his power over the last few games, albeit against poor competition like Houston. Colabello has hit six HR and has driven in 13 RBI this season and two of those HR and five of those RBI have come over the past week. It may be the end of the year, but Colabello may be peaking at the right time.
I believe that if given a consistent chance to play on an everyday basis, Colabello could be a .270-.285 hitter who produces 20 plus homeruns a season while driving in 70 plus runs. His defense at first base is a little suspect right now; but with repetition and a whole off-season of work, that could be easily fixed.
Although I believe Colabello could become the player I have described above, I don’t see it happening with the Twins. I just have the feeling that the Twins’ brass doesn’t believe that Colabello can be anything more than a bench player and they will likely give the job at first to Mauer, Trevor Plouffe or another free agent they bring in this winter. While that may not be the best decision for the team overall—in my opinion—it still is the most likely option for the Twins right now. It is for that reason that I believe Colabello will be relegated to a bench role next season and will likely hit between .230 and .250 with five to 10 HR and somewhere around 30-35 RBI. That may not be the brightest of futures for Colabello, but it is still a future that involves him in the majors and on the Twins who are one injury away from Colabello starting every game. While that scenario may not be ideal, it will be the reality for Colabello come next spring whether he likes it or not.
Only Colabello can change the path that involves his playing time next year; luckily for him, he has the whole month of September to audition.