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Tyler Colvin About To Be Wasted by the Chicago Cubs?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IMarch 26, 2010

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 11:  Tyler Colvin #21 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the San Diego Padres during the MLB spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 11, 2010 in Peoria, Arizona. The Cubs defeated the Padres 8-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It appears the Chicago Cubs will carry a rookie, Tyler Colvin, as their fifth outfielder when the come north for the regular season. And to me, it might be a shame.

The Cubs have a lot of money tied up in their outfield. Between the albatross contracts of Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome, the corner outfield spots are pretty well locked up because of financial obligation.

Meanwhile, the Cubs brought in Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady as free agents this winter to replace "Baseball's Kanye West," Milton Bradley. More money spent on veterans.

Nady is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, his second, and can't throw very well yet. So the Cubs need a fifth outfielder, and Colvin's the guy.

Colvin is destroying the ball in Arizona, and has jumped past Sam Fuld as manager Lou Piniella's choice to be the swing guy in the Cubs outfield. He's been among the franchise's top prospects for a number of years now, but has never received a shot at the bigs because of the concrete ceiling provided by the big money being spent on other, older players.

In the past few years, the Cubs have had some fair success bringing guys up to play every day. Ryan Theriot and Geovany Soto have both been productive parts of the major league club, with Soto winning the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year award and Theriot now winning the leadoff spot for 2010. But how can Colvin become the next player to be promoted into a contributing role?

Colvin is regarded mostly as a corner outfielder, with many questioning his ability to cover enough ground to play center in the majors. Once Nady is healthy enough to throw, the Cubs will have a kid that's blown up this spring sitting and watching for weeks at a time.

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To me, Colvin being brought up is a good move by the Cubs because, on the surface, it appears he could be a productive major league ballplayer. But looking at the depth chart, it's hard to see where he fits into the roster. It's hard for established major league players to maintain a level of consistency when they're only seeing three at-bats per week; asking a rookie to handle the same role is even harder.

This is a make-or-break year for the Cubs. Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly are in the final years of their respective contracts, and 2011 could be a rebuilding season for the Cubs. However, the contracts of Fukudome, Soriano, and Byrd will have all three veteran outfielders in Chicago next year.

I would love to see what Colvin can do in the majors. If the 2011 team is going to include uber-prospect Starlin Castro at shortstop (with Theriot potentially at second), then seeing what a young, cheaper outfielder can do would be worth watching for me. But the depth chart doesn't appear to afford Colvin the opportunity to be a factor in 2010, and that could mean a wasted prospect.

Opening Day is in less than two weeks, and the Cubs have more questions to answer than their outfield platoon. We'll see how Colvin fits as the season rolls along.

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