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  • The Big Switch: Chris Colabello

    ~ Sponsored by Switch My Trip ~
    How big of a switch do you want? A game? A week? A team? A career?

    Our winner this week, Chris Colabello, represents all of the above. His bases-clearing double in yesterday’s 10-7 win over Cleveland rescued a game that was deteriorating fast for the Twins. And that was his second best performance of the week.

    His best was three days earlier, when the Twins were trying to bounce back from a disheartening extra-inning loss, avoid being swept by the dreaded White Sox and win their first game of the 2014 season. That’s when he drove in six of the Twins ten runs in a 10-6 win.
    ~
    The Twins are looking to switch things around this year. Every week, Metro Transit recognizes a Twins player who successfully switched the outcome of a game for the better.
    ~

    A week that could’ve ended 1-5 is now 3-3. A team that had serious questions about their offense is now one of the top scoring teams in the majors. And their cleanup hitter is a 30-year-old rookie who was nearly sold to a South Korean team in December.

    Hollywood would turn down this script as too saccharine.

    Three years ago, Colabello wasn’t playing with an affiliated team. He was playing in the Can-Am league, an independent league similar to the league in which the St. Paul Saints play. As a 28-year-old he joined the Twins AA club and impressed. Last year as a 29-year-old he tore up AAA, earning a promotion to the majors as a very old rookie. That’s already a Disney movie.

    But cue the foreboding music, because after he was called up, Colabello fell flat. He started out 1 for 11. He bounced around a .200 batting average finishing with a .194 mark. He went to the Dominican Winter League where he was hitting just .190 when the opportunity arose to join a South Korean team.

    Colabello had every right to embrace that destiny. It was reported that he could have made upwards of a million dollars in salary overseas. With the Twins, he would be limited to about half of that – and that was only if he made the team, which was looking questionable. Joe Mauer was moving to first base, Colabello’s natural position. The Twins had signed Jason Kubel to be their designated hitter. Colabello was a long shot to make the roster even if he was hitting, which, of course, he wasn’t. The simple fact that the Twins were willing to sell his contract overseas spoke volumes about their evaluation of his future.

    But Colabello turned down the chance to go overseas. He started hitting early in spring training and never stopped. He leapfrogged several other candidates to make it onto the Opening Day roster for the first time as a 30-year-old. And through the first week of the season, he leads the team in RBI, total bases and OPS (on-base plus slugging).

    How much bigger can a switch get?
    ~~~
    Why fight traffic and parking? Say ‘Switch My Trip’ for the next Twins game. Metro Transit can provide you and your whole family a train ride to the game. Planning your trip is as easy as clicking on this link.
    Comments 30 Comments
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      And he leads the AL in RBI! It's a feel good story, and I hope for Chris and the Twins that he can sustain.

      thanks for the great story John
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      If you've ever had the chance to meet Colabello or talk to him for even 10 minutes, it would surprise no one that he turned down the money to go play in Korea. When I talked to him this spring, he said all the Twins needed to do was tell him that he had a chance and he would turn down the money in South Korea. As he said, he played for basically free in the independent leagues for all those years, it's not about the money. His dream was to play in the big leagues, not elsewhere.

      And the reality was that he certainly always had a chance. Looking at the depth charts, he was certainly the best right-handed bat that was on the bubble, so depending upon roster makeup, he had a chance.

      And, he has made the most of it, coming through in big situations. By doing so, he's earned more playing time for now as well. Jason Kubel has been as good as I expected, and the combination is certainly a positive.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Chris "They tried to make me go to Korea but I said, 'No, no, no.'" Colabello is inspiring. I hope he stays in the lineup, everyday.

    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I love baseball because of guys like Colabello. I thought he was crazy to turn down the Asian offers he received this offseason.

      Now look at him. Wonderful.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I love baseball because of guys like Colabello. I thought he was crazy to turn down the Asian offers he received this offseason.

      Now look at him. Wonderful.
      Yup. Sure, it could all end tomorrow, but Cola's story has a chance to be an even better one than Evan Gattis or Yangervis Solarte. And how can you not love a guy who turned down lifetime financial security to continue chasing down his lifelong dream?

      I had missed the part about Cola struggling in winter ball- he really was near the end of the line. John nailed it:
      Hollywood would turn down this script as too saccharine.
      I bet there're some great, untold stories on how he was able to keep his dream alive for 7 years in the Can-Am League.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      So when Disney comes to town, who gets to play the Italian version of Colabello?

      First, our subject:

      Attachment 7064
      And some options:

      Attachment 7065
      1. Affleck

      Attachment 7066
      2. Chachi
      Attachment 7067
      3. Balboa... does that rhyme with Colabella?
      Attachment 7068
      4. Papale & Colabello don't rhyme.

      Other???
    1. Marta Shearing's Avatar
      Marta Shearing -
      All the more amazing when you consider his struggles last year. He had that odd stance where he had virtually no chance of hitting a pitch on the outside corner.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      I never really thought CC had a chance to make it to the Majors. I mean typically scouts find guys like this before they get as old he was. It seemed unlikely that he would possibly be a diamond in the ruff. He was a good Indy league player but would that really translate? Seemed unlikely to me. I really thought he might be making a bad decision not taking the overseas offer as he seemed to have a million dollars for certain going that direction.

      For as much as I have second guessed this guy since the Twins got him I also fell in love with his potential. To me there was always something special about this guy. He seemed to rise to every challenge. Erase every objection you could have about his talent. You have got to give the guy props for believing in himself when a lot of people around him did not. It seems that if you can bust through all of that you should be a good player in the end. I have been rooting for him to make it since he started hitting in AA and I hope he has a good MLB career.

      It is very early to call CC a success as he has only had only one exceptional week in MLB, but I like his odds to make it better now that he seems to have figured some things out. Hopefully he is the diamond in the ruff that the Twins were lucky to find.
    1. ChiTownTwinsFan's Avatar
      ChiTownTwinsFan -
      I love stories like these. And I hope it continues to play out all year long.
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      Colabello seems to be doing what he has been doing for years, now. I think MLB has an "age-ism" problem...if you don't advance quickly, or have to repeat a level, or are too old for a minor league level, you are written off. It seems to me that the team that capitalizes on this market inefficiency in baseball is going to have success...maybe pulling together a bunch of "AAAA" guys with chips on their shoulders.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by AM. View Post
      Colabello seems to be doing what he has been doing for years, now. I think MLB has an "age-ism" problem...if you don't advance quickly, or have to repeat a level, or are too old for a minor league level, you are written off. It seems to me that the team that capitalizes on this market inefficiency in baseball is going to have success...maybe pulling together a bunch of "AAAA" guys with chips on their shoulders.
      Billy Beane has been doing this for years with AAAA positionless sluggers. He hit paydirt with Jack Cust but mostly he just clogged his roster with guys that couldn't field and didn't hit much either.

      Collabello
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      I love Cola, he's my favorite guy on the current 25-man roster, but are we witnessing his "Andrew Albers" moment? He's still sending almost everything the opposite way (I think yesterday's double was the first time he went left of CF at all). Has any power guy had sustained success doing that?
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Hats off to Cola for following the dream instead of the money. Well done. Bonus points for translating for Arcia in the postgames.

      That being said, the stark contrast between the adulation over his nice week and the detached skepticism about Anthony Slama is puzzling.
    1. oldguy10's Avatar
      oldguy10 -
      spycake questions hitters having sustained success in going the other way, a good question, what is the answer? And how does one research that? I would think many MLB hitters over the years have had success in doing so but of course do not know for sure.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by oldguy10 View Post
      spycake questions hitters having sustained success in going the other way, a good question, what is the answer? And how does one research that? I would think many MLB hitters over the years have had success in doing so but of course do not know for sure.
      The most obvious one is David Ortiz, but that is mainly due to his home ballpark.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Quote Originally Posted by SweetOne69 View Post
      The most obvious one is David Ortiz, but that is mainly due to his home ballpark.
      Yeah, Fenway will drive a lot of this. Yaz was quite the opposite field guy.

      Mauer, obviously. Thome, too. I'm having a tougher time thinking up righties. Miggy? Bautista?
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      No doubt there have been MLB power hitters who can successfully hit the other way, like Ortiz -- but that's not the question.

      Can a power hitter who *almost exclusively* hits the other way have sustained MLB success? As to the Ortiz example, more than half of Ortiz's career HR have been pulled, according to B-Ref. He's a good hitter who is also good at going the other way.

      Colabello hasn't pulled anything at MLB level yet (B-Ref says 4-22 with no XBH in his career, including a scant 0-for-2 this year so far -- closest he's come I guess is just left of center, which still counts as "up the middle"). Only 10.7% of his career AB have had pull outcomes (infield, outfield, outs,... everything pulled), and it's not trending up. Even Mauer has pulled 15.1% of his AB in his career, Ichiro is 17.3%... and these are left-handed AVG hitters. Can you imagine a RH power bat with a far lower pull rate than them?

      Again, love Cola, just setting out what I want to see before I can really believe: pull the ball! (Although if he can keep leading the league in RBIs in the meantime, I will enjoy that too. )
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by crarko View Post
      Yeah, Fenway will drive a lot of this. Yaz was quite the opposite field guy.

      Mauer, obviously. Thome, too. I'm having a tougher time thinking up righties. Miggy? Bautista?
      Ortiz: 25.3% pulled AB
      Thome: 18.6%
      Bautista: 24.7%
      Cabrera: 21.3%
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Great article. Thank John.

      Can't be happier for the guy.
      Sticking with his dreams and finally playing in MLB. (and rather well, I might add)

      Cool.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      Billy Beane has been doing this for years with AAAA positionless sluggers. He hit paydirt with Jack Cust but mostly he just clogged his roster with guys that couldn't field and didn't hit much either.
      On last year's Oakland team alone, there were plenty of successful examples.

      1B Brandon Moss -- Reached AAA in 2007, one bad MLB year in 2009, finally started again as a 29 year old in 2013 with a .859 OPS on the season.
      SS Jed Lowrie -- Reached AAA in 2007, but could never catch on with the Red Sox. Had an okay year with the Astros in 2012 before being acquired by the A's for 2013 and putting up a .791 OPS as a 29 year old.
      3B Josh Donaldson -- The A's own AAAA story, reached AAA in 2010. Finally broke out in 2013 at age 27 as a starter and All-Star with a .883 OPS.
      OF Josh Reddick -- Stuck between AAA and MLB since 2009 before being acquired by Oakland for 2012. Down year in 2013, but 32 homers in 2012.

      2014 -- the year of the Handsome Cola!
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