Cubs Speaking Highly of Colvin

You'll have to pardon Tim Wilken if he sounds a little giddy when discussing first-round draft pick Tyler Colvin.

The 21-year-old former Clemson outfielder was the first overall pick by the Cubs' new Director of Scouting this past June, and Colvin went to short-season, Class Low A Boise where he was eventually named the top-ranked prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America.

Colvin was considered by many of the so-called experts as the first "surprise" pick of the draft. Now, five months after picking Colvin with the 13th overall selection in the draft, Wilken recently re-affirmed his decision to scoop up the left-handed hitting outfielder.

"I'm very happy about it," Wilken says with a faint chuckle, as if to tell the armchair GM's who questioned his first choice: See, told you so.

Adding to Wilken's excitement was Colvin's positive impression left on BA.

"As you know from reading through some of the articles and going through the blogs, people are completely confused about a guy being ranked about 2,000th in the draft and then all of a sudden, this kind of comes out of left field for a lot of people," Wilken admitted.

Wilken is unquestionably proud of his first choice thus far and admits he has to catch himself when talking about Colvin because he tends to get "pretty excited."

On the other hand, Wilken doesn't want to jinx Colvin, or as he says, "put the Beano Cook on him."

"Beano put the thing on [former Notre Dame Quarterback] Ron Powlus that he was going to win the Heisman," Wilken recalls. "He's always had the affinity for over-hyping a guy and that's just not been my forte."

Cook, who recently turned 75, is an institutional fixture in the world of college football and can still be seen most every week on sports cable monster ESPN and its countless subsidiary outlets. When Powlus signed a letter of intent with the Irish in the early 90s, Cook boldly and famously predicted that Powlus would win the Heisman Trophy not once, but twice.

It never happened in spite of his otherwise strong career at Notre Dame.

"He just had an affinity for liking all the northern clubs," Wilken furthered. "I don't think he ever liked much in the south, then he put that whammy on Powlus. Maybe it's not a real good analogy."

At any rate, Colvin batted .268 in 64 games for Boise this past season, clubbing 11 home runs, 12 doubles and six triples. He drove in 53 runs, the second highest total in the Northwest League.

Midway through the Hawks' season, Boise manager Steve McFarland admitted that there were games where Colvin struggled, but also stretches where he was as good a hitter as anyone in the league.

"He's shown everything you want to see out of him: power to all fields, runs the bases well, plays the outfield – left and center – and his throws are good," McFarland had said. "There have been games where he struggled, but it's a part of living up to being a first-round pick."

While Colvin may have been the top prospect in his league, he also struck out 55 times and drew just 17 walks in 265 at-bats, finishing with a .313 on-base percentage.

In spite of that, Wilken for one isn't too concerned.

"I think you're going to see him cut his strikeouts down," Wilken predicted. "He's going to increase his on-base percentage just because he's going to trust himself more as an every day player. I think we're just scratching the surface here."

"I mean, we've got a well-rounded guy here," he contends.

Wilken also referenced Colvin's game-winning grand slam that would help put the Tigers in the College World Series this past summer.

The trip to Omaha helped delay Colvin's professional debut until almost two weeks after the Hawks' season began in mid-June.

"Getting out there two weeks late and being second in the league in RBIs, and how he played in the playoffs in the games where it counted, he seemed to rise to the occasion," Wilken noted. "He had a lot of big hits for Boise and I think he likes those situations."

Colvin in fact led the league with a .412 average (7-for-17) in the post-season. With runners on base during the regular season, he hit .297. With runners in scoring position, Colvin batted .303.

"That's something that's really hard to see in a limited period when you're watching a guy amateur-wise," Wilken said. "Some of those skills didn't come when we saw him as an amateur. I'm just excited to see what happens to this guy. A lot of people in other organizations were raving about him.

"Nothing will surprise me in his performances," Wilken added. "He's a baseball player that's starting to put strength together. He has a very good ability and he seems to play well when it counts. Go back and look at the RBIs that he had, and when he had them. Plus, you look at his base-running and the fact that he plays pretty good defense."

Wilken isn't the only one impressed by Colvin. After his season ended, Colvin went to the Cubs' annual Instructional League camp in Arizona where he quickly caught the eye of former Cubs outfielder Bob Dernier.

Dernier was brought to camp at the request of Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita to assist several players – namely Felix Pie – with base-running and defense.

Now 49, Dernier saw Colvin first-hand and came away impressed.

"He definitely stood out," Dernier said. "A lot of guys that are No. 1 picks can get a bit of a label. With this guy, you wouldn't know he was a No. 1 pick. He played and worked and practiced like it was his last day, like he was trying not to get cut.

"It's always refreshing to see a guy like that sort of setting the pace and letting the others know that, ‘Hey, I'm a No. 1 pick, but I know there are no guarantees here. I'm here to work and get better and earn a job. It's not like anything has been given to me.'"

Wilken believes that maturity, coupled with Colvin's feel for his surroundings go a long way at this stage in his career.

"He's a mature kid both mentally and baseball-wise at this point," Wilken said. "He plays the game so darn good that he's going to allow himself to get better even without any strength additions. He's got the frame (6'3", 190 pounds) and he just turned 21.

"We'll see," he said.

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