Posted by: Peter Houston | April 21, 2010

The amazing story of Tim Collins

LHP Tim Collins pitching for Dunedin

How many guys do you know that are 5’7″? OK, now how many of them are athletes? Still holding up a couple fingers? Alright, how many of them are actually GOOD athletes?

I guess it depends on how you define good athlete, but you’re probably lying to yourself if you’re still holding up more than a couple fingers. That’s why the story of Tim Collins is so interesting.

Collins, a 20-year-old from Worchester, Mass., is currently the closer for the Blue Jays AA affiliate. And you guessed it, he’s 5’7″ and 155 lbs. That’s what he’s listed at anyway. One Jays staffer actually told Will Hill that he’d be surprised if he was taller then 5’5″. That is not a typo, five-foot-five.

The funny thing is, the Blue Jays found out about Collins by accident. Former GM J.P. Ricciardi took his two sons out to see a summer league game in his hometown of Worcester to scout a future Oriole draft pick, Keith Landers. But, he ended up getting much more than he bargained for. In the fourth inning, out came Tiny Tim Collins. He faced 12 batters. He struck out every one.

Ricciardi was impressed. After Collins went undrafted out of high school, the Blue Jays scraped together some pocket change and signed him to a $10,000 minor league deal. Next thing he knew, Collins was off to the Gulf Coast League for his pro debut. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. When he showed up in the clubhouse, some of his teammates thought he was one of the players’ little brothers. When he made his first appearance, the players on the other team laughed as he warmed up. Then he blasted a few 95 mph fastballs by the first batter he faced and struck him out. Who’s laughing now?

On the back of his mid-90s heater and a big curveball, Collins quickly rose through the Jays farm system. In 2008, his first full year at Class A Lansing, Collins posted a 1.58 ERA in 68.1 innings. He struck out 98 batters. The next year, between Class A Advanced and AA, Collins a 2.91 ERA in 77.1 innings. He struck out 116 batters. That is not a typo.

One thing is for sure, Collins is not your typical intimidating closer. But it’s not like there’s any shortage of vertically challenged 9th inning specialists to look up to. The Blue Jays on and off closer for the last couple of years, Jason Frasor, is 5’9″. Billy Wagner, a fellow lefty who has a career 2.39 ERA and has been closing games for the last 15 years, is 5’9″. Collins has even drawn comparisons to two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, who is another undersized pitcher who dials up the radar gun. Some people have started calling him Tim Collincecum.

But where is the love for Collins? In Baseball America’s top prospects by organization, Collins wasn’t even in the Blue Jays top 10. That’s BEFORE the Jays added Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace and Travis d’Arnaud and they became our #1, #2 and #5 rated prospects. The only respect Collins got was “Best Curveball” in the organization. But for some reason I think it’s fitting. Collins has flown under the radar his whole life… literally.

Yesterday Collins got his first save of the season. In his 5.2 innings of work in AA this year, he’s yet to allow a run. Yup, he’s racked up 10 strikeouts too. Ho-hum, looks like another season of lights out relief for Tiny Tim.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that when he got that save yesterday, it was the first time I’ve ever heard about Tim Collins. But I certainly don’t expect it will be the last.

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Responses

  1. Great piece! Looking forward to following Collincecum.


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