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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Chris Colabello

A year removed from his 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, Chris Colabello is looking for redemption. While the Indians may have signed him to a minor league deal, will they give him that chance now with Edwin Encarnacion also in the fold?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Chris Colabello, 1B/DH

Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-33 season -- Contract: Minor league deal with invite to big league camp

2016 In Review: There wasn't much to report on for Chris Colabello in 2016 as it was pretty much a lost season from the start. Just 10 games into the season, the then-Blue Jay was hit with an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. After his return in mid-July, it was apparent pretty quickly that he wasn't going to be able to play catchup in time as he batted just .167 with five homers and 13 RBI's in 55 games between Toronto and Triple-A Buffalo. The suspension derailed what had otherwise been an inspiring story of perseverance as the Massachusetts native initially went undrafted and had played seven seasons of independent ball before being noticed enough by major league scouts to be offered a contract. It was the Twins who came calling in 2012 and in the five years since then, Colabello has played parts of four major league seasons with two different organizations, culminated by a career year in 2015 where he batted .321 with 15 homers and 54 RBI's in 101 games for Toronto. Now the 33-year-old is looking to put his suspension behind him and work his way back to another big league job.

Versus Right-handers: Colabello has seen fluctuating splits throughout his big league career. During his career year in 2015, for example, the veteran first baseman and outfielder had relatively balanced numbers against pitchers from either side showing a higher batting average against right-handers at .326, but showing more raw power against lefties with a .571 slugging percentage. In 2014, however, Colabello had better overall stats against right-handed pitching with a .239/.287/.418 slash line, although the variance is not too great. Last season was almost the complete opposite, although also a smaller sample size at 55 games, as he posted just a .163/.243/.248 line against righties. Again, though, the contrast is not all that vast.

Versus Left-handers: Ideally, if you're the Indians, you'd want Colabello as a right-handed platoon bat, considering that all the starting positions will likely be filled. Unfortunately, his career splits point to him being a mismatch in that department as he has batted .266 with a .757 OPS against right-handers and just .237 with a .701 OPS against southpaws. If he performs like he did in 2015 and just hits everyone well, then, of course, it wouldn't be an issue, but in the wake of his recent disciplinary action, there's now obvious doubt cast upon those numbers.

Defense: On the surface, it would appear Colabello brings with him some versatility on the field having seen adequate time at first base and in the corner outfield spots. Unfortunately, a deeper dive into the numbers and metrics reveals that the veteran has little upside to offer defensively. Considering his career -21 DRS and -21.5 UZR in the outfield, his days out there are pretty much over, at least on a contending ballclub. His best position is first base as he did post positive marks in DRS (1) and UZR (0.2) last year, but only in 62 innings. At best, however, Colabello brings slightly-below-average to average defense at that position. So he's pretty much a DH/first base guy at this point, but in Cleveland he has two hurdles blocking his way in that area named Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana.

Fantasy Impact: The idea of signing Colabello this season does have its nobility and intrigue in that "catching lightning in a bottle" sense and a lot of teams in the majors would probably try and see it through. For the Indians, however, while this would by the type of reclamation project they would have attempted in previous years, the time and roster space just do not appear to be available in 2017 at this point. Now, of course, things can change in spring training with injuries and other unforeseen roster changes, but if everything falls into place like it should, Colabello will likely be either sent to the minors to start the year or granted free agency. As far as projections, only Steamer has input with only one plate appearance and no hits expected for the 33-year-old in 2017.

Summary: At the time when the Tribe signed Colabello back in December, they had almost no public interest or negotiations with former slugger Mike Napoli and the idea of signing Encarnacion still felt like a pipe dream. Maybe he was an insurance policy in case something fell through in negoatiations with the aforementioned free agents. Maybe he was another option to add to the outfield mix to cover for Michael Brantley if he isn't ready for the season. Whatever the case may be, the Indians are in a much different situation now than they were before Christmas and, unfortunately, Chris Colabello seems to fit less and less into their plans for the upcoming season. He'll likely stay in camp regardless as he still needs to get ready for the season and could benefit from working with big league trainers and coaches, but his immediate future beyond spring training currently appears uncertain. On the other hand, if he impresses with the Tribe in Goodyear, other teams are sure to take notice and maybe someone who does have the time and roster space will pick him up.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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