Young outfielder Tyler Colvin will make the Chicago Cubs' Opening Day roster if the team can find him sufficient playing time, according to manager Lou Piniella . Colvin, 24, would need to get somewhere in the neighborhood of two starts per week in order to justify keeping him on board, by Piniella's reckoning.
Colvin was the team's 2006 first-round pick, and the team is intent upon getting him regular playing time. Therefore, he may start the season in Triple-A Iowa, and be promoted if and when the Cubs need his bat either as an injury replacement or as a left-handed bat off the bench.
Because Colvin can play all three outfield positions, though, and because of his studly spring, now including a 1.060 OPS in 50 at-bats, he still has a decent chance to make the squad. If, then, Colvin becomes the team's fifth outfielder, at whose expense would he get his plate appearances?
Alfonso Soriano is the most vulnerable candidate. After a miserable .241/.303/.423 season, Soriano has become the league's most expensive sixth hitter. He strikes out too much, draws virtually no walks, and plays miserable defense in left field. His power helps in the lower part of the order, and by all reports, Soriano worked hard this winter to improve.
Still, given Colvin's spectacular Cactus League showing, he may earn a sufficient share of Soriano's at-bats to warrant being on the Opening Day roster. He bats left-handed, and the Cubs certainly need another injection of left-handed hitting talent.
It ought to be noted that Colvin has no walks in 50 at bats this spring, which reflects his well-established lack of patience. Still, Chicago may well decide that his newly muscular physique and the four full years of Minor-League experience he now has make him a solid upside risk in the 300 at bats or so he would get as the team's fifth outfielder.