Scouting Report: Caleb Cotham
;

Scouting Report: Caleb Cotham

The Yankees selected right-handed pitcher Caleb Cotham in the fifth round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt University. His career was pretty much immediately put on hold after having shoulder surgery forced him out for the entire 2010 season, but bounced back with an overall impressive first full season this year between two A-ball levels.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Caleb Cotham
Position: Pitcher
DOB: November 6, 1987
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He made his way back to the mound in 2011 as a reliever late in the year for the Staten Island Yankees, but got back to his starting ways in 2012 and posted a combined 3.64 ERA between low-A Charleston and high-Tampa.

"I think it went pretty well," he said. "I was able to stay healthy and I was able to pitch every time I was asked to pitch. I think that's the biggest victory, my biggest goal that I met this year.

"I went into the season with not a whole lot of numbers goals, I just wanted to be able to compete and pitch, and have the opportunity to pitch well every time and have my body allow me to do that. That was a huge plus for me."

It had been so long since he was able to pitch for a full year -- in fact 2012 was the first time as a professional -- that he wasn't focused too much on developing any one area of game but rather just to get back into the routine again.

"I felt like I was just working on becoming more a complete pitcher, getting better in all facets," he said. "Specifically I was working on repeating efficient mechanics and I think everything played off of that for me.

"When I was repeating what works for me then I was good; the pitches, they worked. I just wanted to get better as a whole, be a more complete pitcher and throw more pitches.

"I wanted to be able to throw all of my pitches in different counts. Just overall pitching was my main goal and work on my overall fastball command. Pitching off of my fastball makes my other pitches better."

It certainly didn't hurt getting a major confidence boost putting up some numbers with the RiverDogs right out of the gate. And while the numbers weren't always there for him in Tampa, he felt like that's where he was able to work on his craft more and he says that is where he pitched even better.

"I think fastball command -- I've always had good control but getting up to the higher levels, I think better fastball command to the bottom third of the zone in and out, I think I got a lot better at that this year. I got a lot more comfortable with that.

"I think that's going to be the key moving forward because everything plays off of that. I haven't really put as much emphasis on that in the past.

"I think pitching down allows me to do things if I were up [in the zone] more. That was a huge goal of mine and I think I got better in that regard."

It was in Tampa where he also reincorporated his curveball, a pitch he had not thrown since his college days, in an effort to better compliment his arsenal.

"It's more of a thing to give hitters a look at something that's a little bit slower," he said. "I have pretty good feel for it. It's obviously a fourth pitch for me right now but I was able to throw it four or five times a game and get it in there for a strike.

"For me it's just something that plays with the speed differences and allows me to add and subtract overall velo-wise so they're not able to sit on something that's relatively the same velocity. The curveball speeds them up and slows them down a little bit better."

He likes the feel he has for his curveball and he believes it could be a put-away pitch for him after he develops it more. But while the better fastball command and implementation of the curveball at the professional level were two big developments in his game, the fact that the power came back in his arm after essentially a two-year layoff was even bigger news.

"To be honest I think I was right at my average fastball velocity-wise and maybe even a tick higher average," he happily said. "I think towards the end of the year I was throwing harder than I really ever have.

"It's nice to throw hard but it's not everything. It is a good gauge though in regards to my health and where I've come from post-surgery."

Back to throwing in the low to mid-90s with better command and adding a fourth pitch to his repertoire were all great first steps in what was realistically his debut season. Now that he has laid that foundation, however, and proven to himself that he can stay healthy, he says he's ready to start refining his game even more going forward.

"I think that's my biggest goal going into this [next] year, be able to add and subtract more and not show them one block of velocities. I want to be able to speed them up and slow them down better.

"I think last year pitching the whole year I learned how to get in a routine again and learned how to work on things. I got to work on baseball actually instead of seeing how my arm feels today. I think being able to do that more and more will be able to help me," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2012

Tampa

2-6

0

62.1

71

22

44

4.48

2012

Charleston

3-1

0

39.0

32

7

32

2.31

2011

Staten Island

0-1

0

21.0

21

9

29

1.71

2011

GCL Yankees

0-0

0

2.0

2

1

3

4.50

2009

Staten Island

0-1

0

6.0

5

3

8

4.50

2009

GCL Yankees

0-0

0

2.0

2

0

5

0.00



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. Cotham has a very solid above average fastball velocity-wise, sitting mostly in the 90-92 mph range [he averaged 91 mph over the course of the 2012 season] with some natural sink to his four-seam fastball. The good news is he got back to his top velocity range, hitting as high as 95 mph towards the end of the year. Where his fastball has gotten better is command-wise -- he can locate it a lot better than he ever has at the professional level.

Other Pitches. While Cotham has gotten better with the fastball, where he hasn't exactly returned post-surgery is with his best secondary pitch. His slider has regained its power, still sitting mostly in the 84-86 mph range, but it's not nearly as late-biting as it once was and therefore not the strikeout pitch it could be. He has a solid average Major League changeup and he's added a curveball that has quickly shown could be an average big league pitch as well, averaging right around 80 mph.

Pitching. Once primarily a fastball-slider guy who could pile up some strikeouts, Cotham has quickly developed into a pitcher who mixes in four different pitches, throws strikes efficiently to keep his pitch counts low, and relies more on his defense behind him to make plays. He is quite adept a pitching in the lower-half of the zone with all of his pitches too, which not only had made him a better contact-out pitcher, one who can induce double-plays, but one who can keep the ball in the yard. He has exceptional makeup and a strong work ethic, two reasons why he has made a full comeback from shoulder surgery -- a feat that is not easy.

Projection. Cotham once projected best as a late-inning reliever type, but he is quickly becoming a very viable long-term starting option because of the development of his changeup and curveball. As it stands right now he has three average big league secondary offerings and one above average pitch with his fastball, and he has solid command of all four pitches. Until the slider gets more of that late-biting action and become a better strikeout weapon, he now best projects as a middle to back-end big league starting pitcher. He will be 25 years old all of next season, however, so time is really starting to click on him if he's to fulfill that kind of potential.

ETA. 2014. Cotham pitched better than his numbers in Tampa suggest and he's in line to see ample time in Trenton next season. A late-season call-up to Triple-A Scranton could be in the cards too and is on track to potentially see his first big league action the following year.

Are you a monthly or 3-month subscriber to PinstripesPlus.com? Why not get two months free AND get 4 issues of our PinstripesPlus Magazine included by becoming an annual subscriber? Upgrade today to get the most out of your subscription.

Become an annual subscriber today!