POTD Casey Kotchman, part 1

Q.  OK Doc, you get the first question.

A. Thank you kindly.  I have one (1).


Do not proceed before answering.










You traded for the guy. 

You gave him the precious AAA 1B developmental airtime.  (There are only a few AAA at-bats you have available to invest at 1B and LF.)

You watched him come up and show otherworldly poise and plenty of talent.

Now you're going to go out and cover-your-backside with one of the worst 1B's in the major leagues.   What was the PLAN on Mike Carp?



Q.  Only one question?

A.  Fine.  From MLB Street:  are you suuurrrrre you're a starter, Case?!


Q.  Thumbs up or thumbs down?

A.  I can't decide whether this trade, or the one for Cedeno and Olson, was the more pointless.  One of the two ranks as my least favorite.  Am not sure which.

Probably I dislike this move more than the Cedeno/Olson trade, because of the way it treats Mike Carp, the OF candidates, and every other talented player trying to crack the 25-man roster.


Q.  Kotchman is a poor man's Adam LaRoche, right?

A.  Right.  In the same sense that Luke French is a poor man's Cliff Lee.

LaRoche has a career OPS+ of 116 and will probably have a 130, 135 or two in there before he's done.  Kotchman is lucky to hit 100 -- from first base. 

Kotchman hits nothing but worm-burners and will never hit home runs.  LaRoche is a legit #5 hitter in the major leagues.  Kotchman is a problem at #7-8 in the AL.


Q.  Kotchman is better than Mike Carp, right?

A.  Siiiigggghhhhhhhhhhh.

Some'a you good buddies really, REALLY need to play a keeper league or two.  Mike Carp is a developmental player!

If Carp is never going to hit any better, sure, Carp is a useless ballplayer and you can make Casey Kotchman look sensible by comparing him to zero.  

All MLB(TM) veterans are 10 cents better than the talented rookie at the end of the row of lockers.  Sure, Casey Kotchman (and every other journeyman bench 1B in the major leagues) projects to 10 cents better than Mike Carp's rookie year.  Hey, that's Mike Hargrove's life motto.


What. the. deuce.  Did you acquire Mike Carp for.


Q.  OK.  What's the problem with Kotchman?

A.  Just for starters:  he's got one of the highest groundball ratios in the major leagues, so you are well-and-truly talking about a pure, Yuniesky Betancourt-style singles hitter.  That's at first base, kiddies.

He has an EYE of 1.0, but it's an Ichiro, Johjima eye of 1.0.  He walks, and fans, about 40-50 times a year.  He's not going to accumulate the 100 walks that has Nick Johnson in a debate as to whether Johnson's useful.

So he's going to give you a league-average OBP, and a below-average SLG.  Yep, that's yer first baseman.


Q.  Maybe he can platoon.

A.  Nope.  He doesn't hit righties.


Part 2



Comment in part 2 was that this trade worked.  I guess you'd have to explain how :- )
Complaint wasn't so much that Heilman was offloaded -- granted, he had a down year in Chicago.  You didn't trade Putz for him because you thought he was useless.  You traded Putz for Aaron Heilman because you thought he was a valuable 8k short man and would replace Putz.  The fact that he had a terrible 2009 doesn't prove that he was useless at the time of the Putz deal.
My complaint was that Cedeno and Olson were flagrant misjudgments, as we wrote the day of the trade.  They were *obviously* not going to succeed in the AL, if even the NL.
That's not to say I'm smarter than Capt Jack; I'm not.  But the Cedeno and Olson move was a howler, the day of.
Give SSI a quarter on this one.  We guaranteed their failures and that's what occurred.
We're guaranteeing that Kotchman is no answer at 1B, either.

F.Nietzsche's picture

First post in years – used to frequent SportSpot as Guru but just haven’t decided to post till now.
I really like this move.  I feel the exact same about this move as I did about the Gutierrez trade last year, (much like you Doc).  Prior to last year I was pretty ignorant about defensive stats, which I have realized was because of my love for Fantasy Baseball.  But when we traded for Guti I read over the posts at LL and USSM and they had me sold.  That move was low-risk, high reward and it came to fruition in spades for us.  I especially like how Jack Z is sticking to his guns and refusing to overpay for “power” and keeps going after undervalued skills.
Things I like about that trade that I learned from my roto experience.  Look for:
-          Age 26 w/ experience
-          A talented player who has been blocked by an established vet
-          A player that has shown skills both in minors and in the bigs
-          Trade away overvalued commodities for undervalued ones
-          Trade away surplus for need
-          Find players who have been unlucky
That trade wasn’t a dream come true like the Cliff Lee deal, but it was a very solid and brainy move. The only possible downside would be if Guti became Coco Crisp, Putz regained and retained 2007 form, and Valbuena became an All-Star.  I saw that as very unlikely, and the way the trade came out as much more likely.
This trade I like because what was true about the Putz trade is true once again, with the added bonus of even less risk and freeing up a roster spot.  Plus, as DrNaka posted at MC, Kotchman would come in tied wth Youkilis as the best defensive 1B in the AL (per UZR) by a comfortable margin (I know you dislike UZR Doc, but it has its uses). Opposing managers know about Safeco as much as you and I, and having an elite defensive 1B facing a lefty-heavy lineup has an unseen advantage.
Anyway, running through the checklist for Kotchman:
-          Age 26 w/ experience (check)
-          A talented player blocked by an established vet (check)
-          A player who has shown skills in both bigs/minors (check) (.898 career minors OPS, .840 OPS in ’07 in 508 MLB PA’s)
-          Trade away overvalued commodities (worthless Hall making $$$, Kotchman = +16 UZR 1:1 BB:K)
-          Trade surplus for need (Figgins, Saunders, Bradley, Tui, Langerhans, M’s Current 1B = Carp) – Granted Doc’s argument for Carp is valid here
-          Find unlucky players (Kotchman BABIP .300 only once. In 2007.)
On top of all that, I seriously doubt Jack’s plan is to count on Kotchman as the starting 1B.  He’s a high upside move IMO and if he by chance puts everything together we’re good to go.


3.61 P/PA (below league average)
1.75 GB/FB (way too many grounders for a slow guy)
-4.5 R/Year on the bases (not only slow, but unintelligent on the bases as well)
17.6 LD% (slightly below league average), but rising the last three years to above average (starting to hit the ball a little harder)
FB Run Value: ~0.005 R/Pitch (that's pretty good but his only strong pitch...he's a dead-read fastball hitter)
26.2 O-Swing% (he's up there hacking a bit too much)
73.7 O-Contact% (and he's making a lot of contact on those out of zone pitches, which is a sign that he has good hand-eye coordination and unfortunately, that he's probably hitting a lot of weak rollers to second)
BABIP: .279 (you can't assume luck here...he's slow and a groundball hitter...he shouldn't have a .300 BABIP)
Zone%: 46.4 (pitchers know he'll chase bad pitches, so they don't throw him strikes)
UZR/150: 4.4 - so no...he's NOT an elite defensive first baseman...merely a solid one.
Unless the Mariners think they can coach him to swing a little less often and turn his skills around, I don't see the upside.

M-Pops's picture

I don't mean to ruffle feathers because I really enjoy reading your stuff, Matt, but...
"UZR/150: 4.4 - so no...he's NOT an elite defensive first baseman...merely a solid one."  Agreed, Kotchman has been merely a solid 1B.  However, looking at Kotchman's three most recent full seasons, his UZR is much closer to +8.  To compare, Olerude (from '03-'05) had an average right around +7.  Pujols over the last 3 seasons averages around +8.  Youkilis +9.5.
"Unless the Mariners think they can coach him to swing a little less often and turn his skills around, I don't see the upside."  Also, '09 Kotchman swung just as much as the much more productive '07 version (43.2% vs 43.5%).  The big differences I see between the '09 and '07 seasons are Zone% (49.6% vs 36.2%) and GB/FB (1.75 vs. 1.52).  Pitchers seem to be fearlessly pounding the zone and mading CK swing a bit defensively. 
Kotchman, I would argue, has to make the same adjustment that Lopez does: open-up the swing a little and wait for his pitch.  And, as you observed in his increasing LD%, Matt, it looks as though he is beginning to make that adjustment.


Who put the Quibbles in the quadra-tritacale and what was in the grain that killed them.
Oh sorry...that's tribbles.
Back on point, pitchers are certainly not "relentlessly pounding the zone" on Kotchman...he has one of the lowest zone percentages in all of major league baseball and has for three years now.  They are pounding him OUT OF the zone and he's swinging at it with INCREASING FREQUENCY! :)  In other words...he's converting flyballs into line drives, rather than grounders into line drives...and he's doing that while swinging more aggressively, not less.
The adjustment he needs to make right now is to 1) dial up his swing ambition and 2) swing less often.  He has the body type that should be able to hit for power and a good crisp level stroke...there's no reason he can't learn to hit for power...he just isn't showing any signs of developing that tool yet.

Taro's picture

The problem with this..
Gut was a +25 run RF in Cleveland. Kotch is a +5-10 1B.
Gut is a plus 0-5 run baserunner. Kotchman is a negative 5-8 run baserunner (which cancels out the postive he makes with his D.)
They have similar offensive upside. Gut is a CF. Kotch is a 1B.
I LOVED the Gut trade at the time. I felt he was a diamond in the rough. I do not feel that Kotchman has anywhere near that upside.
I WILL say this. If there were EVER a player who would benefit from special milk shakes, it would Kotchman.
I LIKE this move if Kotchman is the backup. I'm not a fan if he ends up being our starting 1B in '10.


What you say makes lots of sense.  But, it took Putz to get Gutz.  It took Bill Hall to get Kotchman. 
I'm still thinking Carp wins the ST battle, (assuming it remains Kotch and Carp until then - which I wouldn't bet heavily on).  So, the Gutz upside has to be judged against the Putz upside (at the time). 
Worst case -- Z got nothing for nothing.  More likely - he got a little something for nothing.

Taro's picture

Ya, you're right.  In a Vacuum Kotch for Hall makes a lot of sense. I just really prefer Kotchman as a bench player.
I'm just hoping we sign one more bat at either 1B, LF, or DH if Kotch is starting. Kotch's bat is pretty weak for a 1B. His defense is what gives him above RL value as hes a high GB 1B who cheats on heaters and makes poor quality contact with minimal power. Hes an awful baserunner and his high GB approach leads to high GIDP and low run production. He doesn't score runs because hes a slug who doesn't get on base at a high enough clip, and he doesn't get ribbies because his IsoP is so low.
Anyone with a quality breaking pitch can get Kotch to roll over and hes basically been a guy that gets all of his production against fringe MLB pitching (power pitching nukes him). The guy pretty much needs to figure out how to hit good pitching. Hes going to need drastic changes to his swing to accomplish that.
I might be underselling Kotch though, who knows. Maybe the Ms staff can get him to change his GB approach to a fly ball one, turn him into a 20% LD hitter, and he becomes an 800+ OPS type... There are also some metrics that think of him as a +10-15 run fielder (as oppposed to +5-10). I'm hoping.


I'm not high on Kotchman, either.  But, he's the right age to surprise.  I'm still thinking Carp will beat him out offensively - and we might see Carp against good pitchers, (where his eye will still allow him to produce), while Kotchman feasts on lesser pitchers while playing plus defense, (and pushing Carp to improve his defense).  That kind of platoon would keep Carp's personal batting production suppressed - inflate Kotchman's - and potentially make Kotchman a tradeable asset if/when Carp's defense comes up to snuff.
Remember that Kotchman started off ahead of Morales in the Angel's pecking order - but after Kotchman was traded away and Tex walked - Morales exploded.  Pulling in Kotchman 'might' turn out to be a perfect move to push Carp to get where he's capable of getting to faster.

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