Tyler Colvin: Overdraft or Bargain?
I'm getting a lot of questions about outfielder Tyler Colvin, drafted by the Cubs out of Clemson on Tuesday in the first round, 13th overall. Most people think this is an overdraft, or even a grievous error on the part of the Cubs front office. Let's take a look at Colvin and see if we can figure this out.
Colvin played high school ball at North Augusta High School in North Augusta, South Carolina. He is 6-3, 190 pounds, hits from the left side. He has decent tools across the board; none of his natural tools are spectacular, but he was very well regarded for his defensive skills entering 2006.
As you can see from his numbers, he wasn't a terrific hitter by college standards as a freshman or sophomore. But he's taken a major step forward this year, boosting his power production, adding 80 points to his batting average, and improving his strike zone judgment. Note his walk rate, which doubled this year, along with the improvement in isolated power. Also note that he is young for a college junior: his birthday is September 5, 1985, meaning he is a 20-year-old junior, giving him a bit extra development time on the clock. Another good marker is his excellent stolen base success ratio, a sign of good baseball instincts and polish. As stated, he has a good defensive reputation.
So what we have here is a guy with a good measure of speed and athleticism, developing power, with improved strike zone judgment, who is younger than most college juniors.
Now, does this mean that he was worth picking with the 13th overall selection? I suppose it depends on what the Cubs were looking for. On a "best available player" basis, did they really think that Colvin was a better investment than high school players like Travis Snider or Kyle Drabek? Maybe, maybe not. We don't know what went on in the Cubs draft room. But it seems to me that what may have been going on here was that the Cubs, given that they didn't have second, third, or fourth round picks, wanted to "play it safe" in the first round and pick someone they were very sure of, someone who could advance quickly, a safe pick.
Among college hitters, Colvin may very well have been the best player on their board. The highly-ranked college hitters left on the board at 13 were Colvin, Matt Antonelli of Wake Forest, Emmanuel Burriss of Kent State, Chris Coghlan of Mississippi, Ron Borquin of Ohio State, Wes Hodges of Georgia Tech, and Jon Jay of Miami. Of those guys, only Antonelli looks to me to be a definitely better prospect than Colvin; I can see Colvin ranking ahead of all the others, and Colvin's recent hot streak pushed him to at least equal with Antonelli in the minds of many experts.
Given that the Cubs then took a big signability risk with Jeff Samardzija in the fifth round, picking Colvin in the first is not as crazy as it sounds. It looks like a slight overdraft to me, but if the Cubs had ruled out the riskier high school picks, there is a certain logic to it going with Colvin. Given how difficult it is to judge a draft this early, it is way too premature to call this a mistake pick.