The Kansas City Royals promoted infielder Christian Colon to the major leagues yesterday. Drafted in the first round out of Cal State Fullerton in 2010, he's never lived down the fact that he was the fourth-overall pick and was drafted ahead of guys like Matt Harvey and Chris Sale.
Of course, he was also drafted ahead of a bunch of other guys who have not and never will reach the major leagues. Colon was hitting .296/.360/.384 for Triple-A Omaha with 14 steals in 17 attempts and a sharp 28/25 BB/K ratio in 334 plate appearances. He's also played well defensively at second base, shortstop, and third base.
I know this is hard to do, but forget that this guy was fourth-overall and concentrate on what he actually does on the field. You will see a contact hitter with a sound sense of the strike zone. His physical tools are nothing special, but he's fundamentally sound, especially on defense and on the bases. I think he's best at second base, but he's not terrible at shortstop, where his instincts and quickness help him cover for lack of cannon arm strength or superior range. This is a typical utility profile.
With the bat, he makes contact, avoids strikeouts, and can bunt. He had a strong second half in 2013 (.320/.385/.460) and has continued to hit reasonably this year, particularly against left-handed pitching. Historically, some players with Colon’s profile (so-so tools but fundamental soundness and contact hitting skills) show unexpected offensive development in their late 20s,and perhaps Colon can do the same thing.
If Christian Colon had been a fourth-round pick rather than a first-rounder, he would be seen by the prospect community as a sleeper and potentially useful asset, rather than a disappointment. Sure, he's not Chris Sale or Matt Harvey, and I'm certainly no apologist for the Royals. But even if he's just a utility infielder for a few years, Colon still could wind up being one of the more valuable players drafted in 2010. Never underestimate how high the failure rate among prospects actually is.