Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Christian Colon came off the disabled list before Sunday’s game against the White Sox, and once it was clear the Royals’ result was irrelevant to the American League Central standings, Ned Yost inserted Colon, along with 7 other new position players, into the game. This was Colon’s first action since breaking his finger on September 2 against the Rangers, and he looked as fresh as ever, going 2-2 with a 2-run double.
Before Colon was injured, he provided depth to the Royals bench as a utility player, while also offering a platoon option at third base when a tough lefty was on the mound. Despite uninspiring minor league numbers, Colon was hitting well this year, batting .302/.348/.442, good for a wRC+ of 123 in 47 plate appearances. Losing that kind of player to an injury – in September, no less – was quite a blow. The Royals’ offense struggles enough as it is, so removing a capable bat from the bench forced Yost to rely on his starters even more than he normally would have.
That strategy, of course, was not going too well. Since Colon’s injury, Mike Moustakas has hit .227/.272/.267, with just 3 doubles in 81 plate appearances before yesterday. He’s also made a handful of brutal errors in the past few weeks, which means the two things does best (play good defense and hit an occasional dinger) have been noticeably absent. Some of that damage could have been mitigated if Colon were available to play in Moose’s place.
Colon has historically hit lefties very well, and Moustakas has historically hit lefties less than very well. Additionally, giving Moose a day off here and there may have helped his defense, since some of the errors were nothing more than a lack of focus. Colon wouldn’t even have to start all that often, but with the expanded rosters, his presence could have given Yost the flexibility to go to a pinch hitter when a lefty reliever came in to face Moustakas, knowing that Colon could enter the game at third.
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Now, Colon is back on the roster, and the Royals just so happen to be facing a very good left-handed pitcher tomorrow night, in Jon Lester. The Royals’ best chance for scoring as many runs as possible will be with Colon starting at third base.
I highly, highly doubt it will actually happen, but there is no question that it should happen.
Moustakas has proven time and time again that he struggles with any kind of major league pitching, but left-handers give him more trouble than others, as he’s got just a .554 OPS against southpaws this season, and a .595 OPS for that split in his career. Colon has a .958 OPS against lefties this year, across all levels. Even assuming he’s playing above his head at the moment, Colon appears to be the superior option.
Some may point to the need for Moose’s defense at third base, which, admittedly is better than Colon’s. However, as I pointed out earlier, even his defense has been lacking lately, which closes the gap, particularly in a one-game scenario. Lester has dominated the Royals in the past, so they’ll need as much offense as they can get. Colon gives them more offense from the third base position, without too much of a downgrade defensively.
Besides, if the Royals have a lead in the later innings, Yost can always bring Moustakas in as a defensive replacement.
Beyond the Wild Card game – that is, if the Royals make it past the Wild Card game – Colon still can be a huge piece of the playoff roster. He’s a massive upgrade over the only other utility man on the roster in Nix, and once again, he provides flexibility at third base.
Colon’s return to the active roster could be incredibly important to the Royals in the next few days (and weeks, hopefully), and it all starts tomorrow night. Whether he actually gets the opportunity to make an impact remains to be seen.