Colvin, a former first round pick by the Cubs, has never received too much hype, only cracking the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list once, before the 2008 season. He hardly scratched the top 80. Maybe this lack of hype was earned, because while Colvin never exactly struggled in the minor leagues, he also failed to impress, finishing with a middle of the road .277/.320/.465/.785 OPS line and 56 home runs and 44 steals in 1,716 at-bats. He did display a decent combination of power and speed, as he regularly demonstrated that he is a threat to finish with double digits in triples, home runs, and stolen bases, making the 24 year old a viable option to boost your offensive categories in fantasy baseball if you are in need of some depth.
The impact of Colvin's contribution to the 2011 edition of the Cubbies all hinges on how much time he sees on the field. In his first season seeing regular action at the big league level, Colvin rose to the occasion with a .254/.316/.500 line, which hardly even begins to scratch the surface of how well he performed in 2010. He's probably never going to offer a big boost to your batting average, so get those fantasies out of your head right now. But the real intrigue here lies in his power numbers. In 111 games last year (81 of which were starts), Colvin collected 358 at-bats and belted 20 home runs and stole 6 bags. His poor plate discipline (100 K to 30 BB) is what killed his batting average and OBP, and his minor league track record suggests it's not going to get any better (career minor league 341 K to 105 BB). Whatever on-base average Colvin posts will be fueled entirely by batting average, which means it's probably never going to leave the .320-.330 range. On the plus-side, Colvin posted nearly identical slash lines against righty and lefty pitching, and the absence of an ugly platoon split goes a long way in earning a guy a job in this game.
Unless your team is filled with similar players who take away from batting average but contribute elsewhere, having one or two guys like Colvin is not going to hurt you in the grand scheme of things. On the flip side, if one of your starting outfielders goes down and you need a replacement, would you rather have a capable power/speed guy like Colvin, or would you prefer a high-batting average guy who does little else to contribute to your fantasy stats? I know I'd rather have Colvin, and in the deepest mixed leagues or any NL-only leagues he can be had for the bargain ADP of 219, even as Chicago's fourth outfielder you'll get very good production in terms of the investment.
Out of what I just said, the two keywords are fourth outfielder. Colvin enters Spring Training fighting Marlon Byrd and the disappointing Kosuke Fukudome for AB's, which is never a good thing when one is looking for reasons to be optimistic about their sleeper candidates. Still, Colvin's very-last-round-type ADP means you're not investing much in him, and in the not unlikely event that Colvin is able to wrestle a starting job away from Byrd or Fukudome or if he were to serve as a long-term injury fill-in, there's a strong likelihood that Colvin will further progress and improve as a player, making the possibility of high returns very worth the insignificant investment on draft day. Even if he starts out as a fourth outfielder, it's quite possible that his bat will force him into the lineup eventually.
2011 projected stats: .255 AVG, 21 HR, 61 RBI, 6 SB, 66 Runs