Francisco Caraballo and Chris Colabello
I’ve written about Francisco Caraballo before. He’s basically the Chris Colabello of Japan’s NPB. Aside from the extremely similar last names, both are 31 years old this season, played together for Worcester of the Independent Can-Am League in 2008, and are both having the most successful years of the their professional careers.
Chris Colabello’s story is well known, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice it to say that Colabello started the 2015 season at AAA Buffalo, hit well enough in April to get a call up to the Toronto Blue Jays, and has been hot ever since reaching the majors again. After 29 games for the Jays, he’s batting .366 with a .953 OPS and both 17 RBIs and runs scored.
Colabello got off to an extremely hot start for the Twins in 2014 through his first 20 games and cooled of so badly after that he ended up back at AAA. That could certainly happen again. However, even if he does cool off again, it takes nothing away from his tremendous story of making it up from the Independent-A leagues and establishing himself as a legitimate major league player, at least for 20 game spurts.
As I mentioned above, Francisco Caraballo is another player who used the Independent-A leagues as a spring board to major league success, only Caraballo did it by playing Independent-A ball in Japan and then working his way up to NPB’s major leagues.
Caraballo played well for the Orix Buffaloes in 36 games and 125 plate appearances in 2010, but a 1-for-11 start in 2011 (and probably poor defense) got him cut. He played in Japan’s Independent-A Baseball Challenge League in 2013 and 2014, where he was far and away the BCE’s best hitter.
Caraballo hit so well last year (he batted .396 and his 33 HRs led the league by 13 even though he played in only 63 of his team’s 72 games) that he got a tryout from the Buffaloes this past February and made the club. A hot start at the Buffaloes minor league club got him a quick call-up, and he’s batted .291 with an .874 OPS in 45 games and 189 plate appearances for the major league club.
Caraballo’s defense is probably still poor, but if he can continue to hit and hit with power as he has so far, he should stick around this time. Given the way that both Caraballo and Colabello must have played for peanuts in the Independent-A leagues, it’s gratifying for them finally to be making some money playing professional baseball and getting some of the big-time glory.