Casey Kotchman’s Career Revival


In 2001 Casey Kotchman was the center of attention. A Senior at Seminole High School in Florida, he was Baseball America’s #1 ranked High School player on the nations #1 school. Seminole had several draft worthy players that year, including Ryan Dixon, a right handed pitcher ranked 13th in the nation, and short stop Brian Bass, a transfer from Alabama ranked 6th. The Warhawks would go undefeated and win a national championship, and Kotchman would get drafted 13th overall by the then Anaheim Angels, the same organization his father Tom had worked for since 1984 as a scout and manager in their minor league system.

Kotchman worked his way through the Angels farm clubs, getting time with the major league club in 2004 and 2005. In 2006 he replaced Darin Erstad as the team’s first baseman, but a case of mononucleosis limited him to 79 at bats as he ended up on the DL.

In 2007 Kotchman finally broke through, playing in 137 games and setting career highs with 11 home runs, 68 RBI and a .296 batting average. Six years afer starring in high school, it seemed like his career was taking off.
On July 29 2008 Kotchman was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Mark Teixeira. At the time he was batting .287 with 12 home runs and 54 RBI, but he struggled in Atlanta, finishing the season with 14/74/.272.

Almost a year after being traded for Teixeira the Braves decided they needed more offense from the position and traded him to the Boston Red Sox, bringing Adam LaRoche back to the team he began his career with. Kotchman’s glove was never an issue; he was consistently one of the best defensive 1B in the league. He was one of only three players in the history of the major league to commit no errors in a minimum of 108 games. Kotchman played 114 games that season between the Braves and the Red Sox.

Kotchman would receive only 79 at bats with Boston, and during the off-season he would be traded again, this time to the Seattle Mariners for Bill Hall. On June 3rd, 2010 he set the record for consecutive chances without an error with 2,003, a record formerly held by Boston’s Kevin Youkilis. He extended that record until August of 21st, finishing with 2,379 fielding chances without an error.

Unfortunately his bat wasn’t keeping up with his defense. Kotchman finished the season with a .217 BA and, after refusing a minor league assignment became a free agent.

The Tampa Bay Rays offered him a chance to compete for a spot on the team and Kotchman signed a minor league deal. I expected him to win the job out of camp as he’d played much better than incumbent Dan Johnson and was a Gold Glove-caliber player, but instead he was sent to the minors. That ended when Manny Ramirez retired six games into the season, and Kotchman has since earned more starts by hitting well and showing dazzling defense for a team that prizes infield defense over hitting.

Kotchman is a perfect example of how the Rays remain competitive year after year. Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reported that Kotchman has a bacterial infection in his tear glands that made it difficult to see. Kotchman described the condition as “…like looking through a dirty windshield.” Kotchman had Lasik surgery to correct the problem and this year he looks like the player that was ranked as high as the sixth best prospect in the Angels organization by Baseball America.

For Casey Kotchman it meant a second chance to play a game he’d played virtually his entire life. For the Rays, it meant finding another diamond in the rough. While I don’t know that he can continue hitting at his current .355 clip, one thing is certain.

The Rays have found another quality player off another team’s trash heap.