Feb
03

Prospect Profile: Caleb Cotham

By

Caleb Cotham | RHP

Background
Raised in the Nashville suburb of Mt. Juliet, Cotham attended the high school of the same name and lettered in baseball all four years. He helped the Golden Bears to the regionals as a sophomore, the district championship as a junior, and both the district championship and sectional playoffs as a senior. You don’t get recruited by a top tier college program like Vanderbilt without doing some special things in high school, so let’s recap all of Cotham’s accomplishments in bullet point form…

  • Three time All-District selection
  • District MVP as a junior
  • All-Region and All-State selections as a junior
  • 9-AAA Tournament MVP as a senior
  • Named team captain twice

Despite an accomplished prep career, Cotham went undrafted in 2006 and followed through on his commitment to Vandy. He made just three relief appearances as a freshman, walking two and striking out one in 2.2 IP before taking a redshirt. After the season Cotham headed to the New England Collegiate League, where he posted a 4.53 ERA with a 37-15 K/BB ratio in eight starts (37.2 IP) for the Keene Swamp Bats.

Head coach Tim Corban plugged Cotham into the rotation spot left vacant by the departed David Price as a redshirt freshman, and he responded by leading the team with seven wins as the team’s primary Saturday starter. He finished second among starters in ERA (4.50), and second on the team in starts (14), innings (86), strikeouts (90), and batting average against (.265). In his lone start of the postseason, Cotham allowed seven runs in 5.2 IP against Oklahoma in the Regionals, taking the loss as Vandy’s season came to an abrupt end. He heading to the Cape Cod League over the summer, posting a 2.54 ERA with a 51-22 K/BB ratio in eight starts (46 IP) for the Brewster Whitecaps, making the All Star Team.

Filling the same number two starter role as a redshirt sophomore, Cotham again led the team with seven wins while finishing second in starter’s ERA (4.10), innings (79), and strikeouts (84). His .222 opponent’s batting average led the staff, starters or relievers, though he was suddenly very homer prone, surrendering 14 long balls in 2009 after allowing just six the previous year. In his lone postseason start, Cotham threw a four hit complete game shutout against Middle Tennessee in the Regionals, striking out eight and walking none. Vandy was eliminated the next day, so it ended up being Cotham’s final appearance as a Commodore.

Baseball America rated Cotham as the 10th best prospect in Tennessee prior to the 2009 draft, when he was eligible as a redshirt sophomore. The Yankees selected Cotham with their 5th round pick, #165 overall, with the intentional of following his progress on the Cape after he had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee. In two starts and two relief appearances with Brewster, Cotham tossed up a zero ERA with a 15-1 K/BB ratio in 13 IP. He agreed to a well-above slot deal with the Yanks worth $675,000, which was announced on the August 17th signing deadline.

Pro Debut
Cotham was initially assigned to the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees after signing just for a tune up, and he struck out five in two innings of work in his only start there. He was then bumped up to Short Season Staten Island, and in two starts Cotham posted a 4.50 ERA and a 8-3 K/BB ratio in six innings. He aggravated the knee injury in mid-September, so the Yanks shut him down for the season as a precaution.

Scouting Report
At his best, Cotham features two strong pitches and two others with potential. His bread and butter is a heavy low-90′s sinker that he can command to both sides of the dish. He’s flashed mid-90′s heat with tremendous sink working out of the bullpen. A sharp slider that has touched the upper-80′s serves as his second pitch. Cotham has also shown some feel for a curveball that’s more 11-to-5 than 12-to-6, as well a changeup, the latter of which will be his primary focus in 2010. He projects best as a power late-inning reliever, though starting isn’t out of the question.

Packing 215 pounds onto his 6′-3″ frame, Cotham has a thick and powerful frame that reminded me of Chad Billingsley at first glance. His delivery is free and easy, that is until he releases the ball. He cuts off his follow through and recoils his entire upper body, and while it puts him a good position to field the ball, it could lead to core or back injuries down the road. It’s an easily correctable flaw, but otherwise the rest of his mechanics are pretty close to textbook.

The biggest issue is his knee injury. It flared up down the stretch of Vandy’s season, so he had surgery after the draft, and yet it flared up again in September. Cotham isn’t a small guy, so unless they take care of this now, it could end up a chronic problem.

You can see Cotham’s scouting video here.

2010 Outlook
Once the knee issue is resolved, the Yankees will take it easy and send Cotham to Low-A Charleston to begin 2010. He’ll work as a starter to get as many innings in as possible.

My Take
I liked the pick at the time and I like Cotham as a prospect, but I’m certainly not in love with him. Sinker-slider college pitchers who throw in the low-90′s are a dime a dozen, though Cotham stands out because he has shown more velocity as well as two other pitches with potential. Knee problems can tend to stick around if not handled properly, though I’m sure the Yanks will be extra cautious as always. Cotham will be an interesting guy to follow, because something could click and he could really take off and become an elite prospect.

Photo Credit: Dave Martin, AP

Categories : Prospect Profiles

164 Comments»

  1. Steve H says:

    Any thoughts on whether correcting his delivery flaw would bump low 90′s into mid 90′s, and consistently?

  2. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Love the Prospect Profile. Nice write up Mike. Is he in your top 30? If so, whereabouts does he fall?

  3. All Praise Be To Mo says:

    I like the pick, hopefully he can turn into the next Z-Mac.

  4. Great writeup.

    That Charleston rotation of Brackman-Ramirez-Heredia-Cotham-Turley will be exciting to follow.

  5. Carl says:

    i take it in this top 30 you won’t be ranking Carmen Angelinni #5 again

  6. Moshe Mandel says:

    If I remember correctly, Lane Meyer and BA both liked the pick at the time. Should be interesting to follow.

    • A.D. says:

      Yeah, at least Meyer went with a “poor man’s Joba” which will probably get fans too excited, and quickly call him a bust.

      • Bo says:

        I guess hes a poor mans Joba when comparing him to Joba the starter cos that fastball hits 91.

        He is no poor mans Joba as the relieving Joba

  7. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    With all your connections at YESnetwork.com, any chance you can score a live chat with any Yankee minor leaguer? That would be AWESOME!!

  8. A.D. says:

    I know that the SEC is probably the toughest baseball division, that said, how does an ERA in the 4+ stack up, seems high for top college recruit, but for the SEC is that normal?

  9. A.D. says:

    Realistic possibility that he ends in high A?

  10. gxpanos says:

    Sounds like he’ll scrap one of this pitches, but if he’s mid-90′s sinker/slider/change, he could be a nice BP piece.

    Nice write-up. PP Day on RAB should be considered a minor holiday in Yankee Universe/Land/City/Ville.

  11. mryankee says:

    The yankees passed on Daniel Bard to select Ian Kennedy in the 2006 Draft.

  12. mryankee says:

    Whats with all these spare part type prospects? where are the stars?

  13. Accent Shallow says:

    Always enjoy the prospect profiles, especially since I seem to forget they’re coming.

    Any chance he gets a quick bump to Tampa if he comes out of the gate quickly?

  14. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Since he’s the poor man’s Joba we should already scrap the starter project and make him the eighth inning guy.

  15. Rose says:

    Caleb Cotham could be the next Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz

    Don’t say I didn’t tell you so…

  16. Rose says:

    Here’s a neat question…

    Who is the best prospect to turn into a successful major leaguer after being one of the farthest picked draft picks?

    I guess you have to not only measure how far back somebody was picked…but just how good the player was too…and compare the difference? What do you think?

  17. Frank Marco says:

    Wow. I’m from Lebanon,TN. I read this blog all the time, but I had no idea a neighbor of mine was drafted by the Yanks! He grew up about 5 miles from my area and went to my rival high school. awesome.

    I wish the kid the best, and hope to see him in the bigs at some point.

  18. Guy says:

    Mike, Love your articles on little known Yankee prospects. Just an FYI… It’s the Keene Swamp Bats. I used to live outside of Keene, NH and went to a few of the Swamp Bats’ games. The NECBL provides a decent level of baseball for a couple of bucks fee.

  19. hays says:

    There goes his elbow, his wrist is falling behind and his delivery doesnt make enough use of his hips

  20. pete says:

    Sergio Mitre/Zach McAllister part 3? Looks like it, though that delivery worries me a tad. That’s a lot of work for an elbow to do.

    Still, he looks like someone who will eventually be able to get MLB hitters out fairly consistently. Maybe it’s only as a backup starter/long reliever on the yanks, but that could turn into a decent salary dump trade to an NL team.

    • Bo says:

      Why would u compare McAllister to Mitre??

      Why degrade him like that?

      • pete says:

        I’m comparing their stuff. McAllister has shown better command, though. As far as results go, though, the book hasn’t been written on either of them. Mitre’s had one season and it was immediately following surgery. McAllister hasn’t even reached AAA yet. Both are guys with solid sinkerball stuff without out-pitches who project as back-end/backup starters or long relievers.

  21. Bo says:

    For all the hype surrounding Oppenheimer he certainly hasnt drafted well the past 3 drafts. In terms of high ceiling prospects he has done well at all. And someone needs to be blamed for the Cole thing. And as we all know cashman doesnt take the bullet for any bad decision.

    • Johnny says:

      We still don’t know that drafting Cole was a bad decision.

      We know NOW that he didn’t sign. But at the time, for all we know, it was the right move.

      Not every event (good or bad) can be pinned on someone. Sometimes thats how the ball bounces.

      That being said. Oppenheimer didn’t exactly have a lot to work with in the amateur draft last year… I for one am thrilled about that… It gave the Yanks Tex, AJ and CC.

      I would trade the entire farm system and every draft pick in 2010 for another world series this year (yes including Montero).

      • Angelo says:

        Why?

        I guess the ultimate goal is to win a world series, but I’m fanatic of the sport itself. Winning the world series is just icing on the cake. However I would rather still be able to have hope in prospects like Montero. Its fun watching great players develope.

    • pete says:

      the only way the yanks can sign high ceiling guys in the draft is by taking signability guys and injury risks. One of the inherent risks in signing a signability guy is that he might not sign.

      • pete says:

        and in ’08 the yanks had as good a chance as anybody to sign him, and there wasn’t much evidence at the time that he WOULDN’T sign, just that he’d be difficult. Letting a talent like him go by would have been insane, though. We’re talking Phil Hughes 2.0

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