Breakout Candidate: Brant Colamarino, 1B

Colamarino hit 21 homers in 2005.

Throughout spring training, OaklandClubhouse.com will profile a handful of Oakland A's minor leaguers who seem poised to make a jump from the ranks of the relatively obscure to the well-known. In the third of our series, we take a look at a power-hitting first baseman who is coming off of a schizophrenic season.

Brant Colamarino is nothing if not consistent. In 2004, the Pittsburgh alumnus began the year red-hot at high-A Modesto, hitting .355 with 11 homers and 41 runs batted in over only 50 games. However, his fortunes changed when he was promoted to AA-Midland, where he hit .273 with only eight homers in 77 games.

Colamarino's 2005 season was almost a mirror image of his 2004 campaign. He began the year back in AA-Midland and he nearly duplicated his Modesto numbers, hitting .321 with 10 homers and 45 runs batted in over 46 games played. Colamarino was promoted to AAA-Sacramento, but he failed to match his AA success, hitting only .243 with 11 homers and a .297 on-base percentage in 74 games.

At times in Sacramento, Colamarino closely resembled the hitter he was in Midland. In his second game with the River Cats, Colamarino went 4-4 with two homers, five runs batted in and a walk. He had three hits and three runs batted in versus Fresno on August 29. From July 21 to August 17, Colamarino hit safely in all but three games. For the month of July, he was really on target, hitting .330 with four homers and 12 runs batted in over 88 games.

What really betrayed Colamarino at AAA was his plate discipline, which throughout his career has always been above-average. With Midland, Colamarino's on-base percentage was a respectable .377. He had managed an outstanding .450 on-base percentage with high-A Modesto in 2004. However, with Sacramento, Colamarino's on-base percentage collapsed to a mediocre .297. His strikeout ratio jumped from one every 5.5 at-bats at Midland to once every 3.6 at-bats in Sacramento.

This trend is similar to what he experienced in 2004 with his jump from high-A Modesto to AA-Midland. At Modesto, his strikeout ratio was once every 7.9 at-bats. When he was at Midland, that ratio jumped to once every 4.9 at-bats. This trend demonstrates that Colamarino likely presses when he moves up a level during a season and his anxiety to over-perform leads to a lack of discipline at the plate. When he returns to that level the next season, he is more comfortable and his natural ability to be more selective returns in force.

Outlook

One aspect of Colamarino's game that has remained consistent throughout his minor league career is his raw power. Despite his struggles at AAA, Colamarino still managed to have 29 of his 68 hits at Sacramento go for extra-bases. He established a career-high in homeruns with 21 in 2005 and in runs batted in with 92. He has always been an RBI machine, driving in 80 runs or more in all three of his full-season minor league campaigns.

Colamarino has also shown that he is extremely durable. In his three full-season minor league campaigns, Colamarino has played more than 120 games in all three seasons. Once derided in the book Moneyball for his physical fitness, Colamarino re-dedicated himself to fitness before the 2004 season and he is roughly 20 pounds lighter then he was when he was in college.

Despite being only 5'11'', Colamarino has turned himself into an excellent defensive first baseman. He has soft hands, a good throwing arm and above-average range. He is a typical first baseman on the base-paths, however, as he has little natural foot speed.

Colamarino enters the season at 25 years old. He has more than a half season of AAA baseball under his belt and, if history repeats itself, his comfort with the level of play there should translate into big numbers in 2006. He will likely be sharing playing time with Daric Barton both at first and at DH. Colamarino had very few at-bats as a DH last season, so he will have to make the adjustment to sitting in-between at-bats for those games.

Although the A's are deep at the first base position, Colamarino has a unique blend of power and defensive prowess. He could force the A's to make a decision to move him or someone else if he has a strong start to his season at AAA.

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