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Staring Inappropriately At Tyler Colvin's Sample Size

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In his first 34 plate appearances as a Giant, Tyler Colvin is driving the ball all over the place. Over fences. Into coves. Down both lines. Up against numbered archways. Of his ten hits, only two have been singles. He's also 3 for 7 with two doubles and a walk against lefties, which has never been his strong suit (.222/.261/.392 career, for a 65 wRC+). He's striking out a ton (35% of his plate appearances), even more than his career 26% rate. But as the Giants have learned with Brandon Hicks, a lot of timely extra-base hits can make up fast for a lot of strikeouts.

You know in your head this is a tiny sample size. And that Colvin's middle name is Eugene. But your heart wants to know: Has the 28-year-old Colvin figured something out, as can happen with guys in their late 20s who've missed a lot of time due to injury?

Sorry, heart, that's not a fair question. All Colvin has ever needed to figure out is how to stay healthy (and walk a bit more... OK, and hit lefties better). In the past two even-numbered years -- just like the Giants! -- he's done pretty well thank you very much, first with the Cubs in 2010, then with the Rockies in 2012.

Year
Age
Team
G
PA
HR
RBI
BB
K
OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2009 23 CHC 6 20 0 2 2 5 .250 .176 .426 12
2010 24 CHC 135 395 20 56 30 100 .316 .500 .816 113
2011 25 CHC 80 222 6 20 14 58 .204 .306 .509 38
2012 26 COL 136 452 18 72 21 117 .327 .531 .858 114
2013 27 COL 27 78 3 10 3 27 .192 .280 .472 21
2014 28 SFG 11 34 1 5 3 12 .382 .677 1.060 199
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/23/2014.

He'll cool off from where he is now, of course, but his track record tells us we might expect solid bat work all year from Colvin. If he stays healthy, of course. He also has shown an odd proclivity for getting on base via catcher's interference, but as Hector Sanchez's teammate, perhaps his chances are now dimmed.

At the very least, he's a great fourth outfield option when Brandon Belt returns and Michael Morse shifts back to left field: starting occasionally against righties, or pinch hitting and double switching into left field for a defensive upgrade. (He's playing nice outfield defense, as we were told he would.) That gives Bochy more flexibility in using Gregor Blanco as a pinch-runner or in pinch-hit leadoff situations.

A larger question is whether Colvin makes longer-term sense for the Giants. Mike Morse is a free agent after this year, and if he continues his pace, he definitely won't be signing another one-year, $6 million contract. Colvin is in his arbitration years and can't be a free agent until 2017. He's not a 30-home run guy, as Morse might be this year, but he's probably a 15-homer guy, and with better defense and baserunning than Morse, his value could be on par or beyond. (Fangraphs pegs Morse's best year, in 575 plate appearances, at 3.1 WAR; Colvin tops out at 2.2 WAR, but in 452 PA.)

Tyler Colvin, starting left fielder for Your 2015 San Francisco Giants? Too soon, too soon. And yet, and yet... if he shows better work against lefties, and his back problems are behind him (nyuck nyuck), and the Giants feel comfortable with a little less power in the outfield....

At the least, though, his first 34 plate appearances as a Giant make him an obvious candidate to be an often-used fourth outfielder the rest of the way for this year's team. Basketball has its Sixth Man of the Year Award, I'm going way out on a limb and nominating Colvin for baseball's Tenth Man of the Year.


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