In a baseball universe of diminished offense, the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays were an oasis of run production in a desert of dominant pitching. They had the league’s MVP in Josh Donaldson and a pair of dynamic run producers around him in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Then, they acquired one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball in Troy Tulowitzki. The combination came within a breath of getting the Blue Jays to the World Series.
Now, they have less pitching, but they still have that same dynamic offensive attack. In that attack there are few breakout candidates. Half of the lineup (also including catcher Russell Martin) has already broken out in a big way. Yet, if you exist outside of that group you have the opportunity to see your abilities play up because of all the attention will be elsewhere.
Chris Colabello could be one of those guys. Sabermetricians have long maintained that lineup construction does not matter much for the performance of individual players. In other words, Colabello would likely produce similar numbers whether he was in the Blue Jays lineup or say the Rays lineup. This may literally be true in most circumstances, but better lineups do afford hitters more run scoring and run producing opportunities. There is also an incalculable psychological effect where a hitter can be more relaxed because he doesn’t have to carry the load.
Where he has been
There are breakouts based on pure performance and ability. Then, there are breakouts dependent on opportunity. Colabello isn’t going to perform any better than he did a year ago. 2015 represents the very ceiling in his actually performance. The truth of his ability is probably somewhere between where he was in 2013 and 2014 and where he was a year ago. The breakout will come in his opportunity to play every day for the first time.
Yet, this is where the rubber meets the road. The Blue Jays have plenty of depth at designated hitter (or first base), so Colabello will still have to prove he is better than the other options. Yet, if he produces somewhere around .270 to .280 with moderate power he should get the bulk of the at bats at the position. That kind of production may not make him a draft day selection, but he could be one of the first guys off the waiver wire that is picked up.
Where he could go
A number of teams like taking advantage of platoons with some of their less effective players. As a right-handed hitter, Colabello doesn’t have extreme splits, but they still might choose to take advantage of that moving forward. There are also performance platoons where teams simply choose to ride the hot hand. That might give Justin Smoak another opportunity to win himself some playing time at first base if Colabello struggles.
Of course, Colabello’s projections include some of the evidence from his 2013 and 2014 seasons. The question is how relevant those seasons are. Are they more or less relevant than what he produced last season in a little more playing time? Were his numbers tremendously out of context last season? His .411 BABIP might be a bit of a clue and that might be the reason why his projections look more pedestrian in comparison.
A Rosy Picture
The numbers above represent the numbers that are more likely if Colabello gets to play every day. Again, they don’t represent so much of a performance breakout as a playing time breakout. If he is able to play every day he obviously becomes a decent fantasy prospect and he plays up if he is eligible for the outfield in your league. In that case, he is a borderline starting outfielder in a standard mixed league. If you can fetch him late and stash him on your bench he could be a decent pick up.