Blue Jays signings: Get to know Casey Kotchman


In Casey Kotchman, the Toronto Blue Jays have added a steady depth piece with a contact-first approach.

The Toronto Blue Jays included veteran first baseman Casey Kotchman in a trio of signings on Monday aimed at rebuilding depth in their upper minors. Kotchman is the most recognizable name of the three, with 10 years of MLB experience and several as a full-time starter, so now is a good time to dig a little deeper as we get to know the new additions.

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Kotchman was originally drafted by the Angels with the 13th overall pick in the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft, just two spots before the Blue Jays picked up Gabe Gross. The son of Tom Kotchman, a longtime MLB scout, he ranked the Angels number one prospect for three out of four years from 2001 to 2004 (2nd in 2002). Entering 2005, Baseball America ranked Kotchman as the number six prospect in all of baseball.

Standing 6’3″, 220 pounds at 32 years old, Kotchman throws and hits left-handed. His most recent MLB action came with the Miami Marlins in 2013, while his most recent minor league action came with the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals affiliate) in 2015. After sitting out the 2014 season, many had assumed Kotchman was headed for retirement.

The Distant Past:

Kotchman made his MLB debut with the Angels in 2004, where he would appear in just 114 games over his first three seasons while flashing his tantalizing potential at the plate. He was never confused with a hitter that would win a home run title, but with the ability to hit to all fields and an excellent plate approach, a future batting title was not out of the question.

The 2007 season announced Kotchman to the league, and at 25 years old he posted a slash line of .296 / .372 / .467 over 508 plate appearances. Even at a young age, he topped his 43 strikeouts that season with 53 walks. For his career, Kotchman holds a 7.8 BB% and 9.9 K%. Unfortunately, his power numbers still were not fitting the first base prototype, but with 37 doubles on top of his 11 home runs, there was potential. His total of 14 home runs in the following season still represents his career high.

Kotchman would head to the Atlanta Braves at the 2008 deadline for Mark Teixeira, then to the Boston Red Sox at the 2009 deadline for Adam LaRoche. Outside of a brief resurgence with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 with an .800 OPS over 146 games at age 28, he’s spent the majority of the past six years bouncing between organizations and struggling to stick.

The Recent Past:

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Outside of his cup of coffee with the Marlins in 2013, Kotchman’s last noteworthy MLB action came with the Indians in 2012, meaning there’s an existing link to Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro. It was a down season, however, as Kotchman posted a .612 OPS and -1.6 WAR in a full time role.

After a 2014 season where retirement was beginning to seem imminent, Kotchman returned with AAA Omaha in 2015 where he would spend the entire season. Over 90 games, he managed to post a line of .290 / .374 / .426 with 39 walks and just 32 strikeouts. His 20 doubles and seven home runs would be good for 44 RBIs.

What Kotchman Offers:

While he’s very unlikely to impact the MLB roster at any point, his addition to the organization does represent the type of offensive approach that Toronto could benefit from. In hindsight, his season spent with the contact-savvy Royals seems like a very natural fit. Kotchman excels in working the count and producing consistent contact, so while he won’t crack a game wide open at the plate, his at-bats should benefit the Buffalo Bisons with great consistency.

Defensively, Kotchman was once viewed as having perennial Gold Glove potential as a prospect. His defensive metrics from recent MLB seasons are not as encouraging, but he was excellent during his time with the Angels. In that breakout 2007 season, he posted a 12.4 UZR.

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Where Kotchman Fits:

The coming wave of minor league and waiver additions will clearly impact his situation, but in all likelihood, Kotchman will earn a prominent role with the Buffalo Bisons. He could very well follow the path of Matt Hague in 2015, putting up excellent offensive numbers for the level but not necessarily pushing for a spot on the MLB roster. That isn’t to say he lacks big league potential, which a lesson we learned from Chris Colabello, but barring any drastic changes, he profiles as a quietly valuable piece of veteran depth.