Spring Training is a time for many established players to get back in the swing of things, but for fringe players, or those who are coming off injury, it’s a crucial time to catch on with a team with a top-notch performance. The newest member of the Seattle Mariners’ organization can be considered in both those secondary categorizations.
Mariners have signed RHP Caleb Cotham to a minor league deal.— Jason A. Churchill (@ProspectInsider) February 23, 2017
RHP Caleb Cotham was a 5th round pick by the Yankees in 2009. Injuries hampered the 29 year-old all throughout his minor league career, causing him to miss all of 2010 and parts of several other seasons. Through 2014 Cotham was worked as a starter, but has spent the past two seasons working as a reliever, with impressive minor league numbers, including a 2.32 FIP and an appealing 8.71/1.45 K/9 & BB/9 in 31 innings in 2015.
After a cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2015, Cotham was sent to the Cincinnati Reds as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade. He struggled with health and effectiveness again in Cincy, however. His 4.87 FIP and .372 BABIP against suggest he did not receive buona fortuna, but a 4.44 BB/9 in 24.1 MLB innings in 2016 isn’t what you like to see either. To top it off, after hitting the DL in May with shoulder inflammation, Cotham’s season came to an abrupt end in July with knee surgery on a torn meniscus.
At this point I know you’ve stopped reading, as you’re frantically trying to sell your reading device of choice to the nearest buyer, in hopes that they’ll provide you with the cash needed to buy custom “Cotham” Mariners jerseys for you and your family. For those of you who are smart and do your shopping online, however, let me sprinkle a bit more positivity on you.
Cotham, a onetime Vanderbilt standout, has a reputation as an extremely cerebral player. He was credited by former teammate Tony Cingrani with introducing him to Driveline Baseball. Cingrani describes Cotham as “a pretty smart cat,” which is either metaphorically flattering or literally a massive insult. Driveline is based in Kent, Washington, and has many strong devotees, including Mariners’ prospect Andrew Moore, as well as some fierce critics, but Cotham credits their “data driven” workouts with his rehab and development.
A recent video from Driveline founder Kyle Boddy shows Cotham back in action, following surgery.
Caleb Cotham, first serious pen recovering from knee surgery. 90-92 MPH with three pitches for strikes. pic.twitter.com/j2d0ChaD25— Kyle Boddy (@drivelinebases) February 2, 2017
The “three pitches for strikes,” interpreted positively, refer to his four-seam fastball (which has sat in the low-90s since converting to relief), a tight slider (86-88 mph) and a 12-6 curveball in the mid-high 70s.
Below you can see Cotham at his best, with a fastball, slider, fastball, and fastball displayed.
Additionally, while those are the pitches he most frequently relies on, when located properly his curveball can work extremely well off the other two pitches in his repertoire. Here he makes a fellow pitcher look foolish.
With a minor league contract and no spot on the 40-man, Cotham is almost certainly Tacoma-bound. At 29 years of age, Cotham isn’t a prospect in any traditional sense, but his stuff has the outline of a useful pitcher. If he can put together a healthy spring in Peoria he can easily provide useful depth in 2017.