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Casey Kotchman: Atlanta Braves 2009 Player Preview

This review was written by Leah Mayo (aka mccannfan), who can be found at Braves Girl Blog.

The Braves acquired the Angels-bred, born and raised, Casey Kotchman in a trade for Mark Teixeira right before the trade deadline in July 2008. At first, Kotchman got off to a slow start as he was getting acclimated to his new surroundings and new teammates. He batted a lowly .157 in his first 20 games before he was placed on the bereavement list to be with his ailing mother, who had suffered a brain hemorrhage and was not doing well. He stayed in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida at his mother’s bedside until September 1st, to avoid being placed on the restricted list.

After returning to the team, Kotchman began to come around at the plate, hitting .300 in his next 20 games played. He began to settle in more, still getting used to being on the opposite coast from where he started the season and the early years of his career. He hit only two homeruns while with the Braves in ’08, hitting 12 with the Angels, and he’s never hit more than 14 homers in a season, lacking the power that most first baseman have. He projects to not hit many more than 12 to 15 homeruns in a season -- that just not the kind of hitter he is.

One of his better assets, before the 2008 season, was that he drew a lot of walks, having drawn a total of 118 throughout his career, and he’s still capable of doing so. The Angels had asked him to hit for more power and be more aggressive and that affected his selectiveness at the plate. He also won’t strike out a lot, only having done so a total of 124 times in five seasons, with his highest amount coming in at 43 strikeouts in 2007. He won’t steal a lot of bases, having stolen the same amount as catcher Brian McCann in the five seasons that Kotchman has spent in the majors.

Defensively, Kotchman can hold his own against most of the first basemen in the game -- he has committed only eight errors in his major league career at first base. He has a career fielding percentage of .997, which is not as highly regarded a stat as it used to be, but compared to the other NL first baseman, his defense near the top. Braves fans haven’t seen much of Kotchman, but we already have pretty good idea of how good he is in the field with the glove.

Kotchman won’t hit 30 homers a season, lacking the power that is typical of first basemen, but when he’s on the top of his game, he’s a good, solid hitter, who hits from gap-to-gap, will take walks more often than not, and won’t strike out much at all. We know what we’re getting from a fielding standpoint, as he knows how to flash some leather. If he stays healthy, he should be able to produce the kind of season that the Braves had envisioned for him when trading for him. According to just about everyone in Braves camp this spring, Kotchman seems to be in better spirits and is a seemingly different person than when they last saw him. Let’s hope this remains true throughout the season. 

Thanks to Leah for a great preview. If there is anyone else who has not yet submitted their preview, and I've contacted you about writing it, and you still want to see it posted, please get it in before the end of spring training -- you've only got one week left.

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