Name: Chris Kohler
Height/Weight: 6’3’’, 210
How Acquired: Drafted by the A’s in the supplemental 3rd round in the 2013 draft
Thanks to an elbow/forearm issue, Chris Kohler didn’t log any official innings during the 2014 season. However, he finished the fall with some momentum and will be healthy heading into spring training. That’s good news for the A’s, and potentially bad news for Midwest League hitters.
Kohler was the A’s supplemental third-round pick in 2013 out of Los Osos High School in Southern California. A talented two-way player, Kohler was scouted by many teams as a hitter, but the A’s liked him best on the mound. The A’s were able to sign Kohler away from a commitment to Oklahoma.
The tall left-hander had an impressive pro debut season in 2013. Pitching exclusively in the Arizona Rookie League, Kohler posted a 2.78 ERA and a 32:9 K:BB in 22.2 innings. His outings were kept short to limit his innings, although he was able to go deeper in games during that fall’s Instructional League camp.
"He really reminds me of Andy Pettitte." - A's bullpen coach Scott Emerson.
Coming into 2014, the A’s hoped Kohler would be ready to pitch at Low-A Beloit. He had an outstanding spring training, but the A’s kept him back in Arizona at the start of the year to get a little more work in extended spring training. The plan had been to send Kohler out to Beloit once the weather warmed, but a left arm strain (described as elbow and forearm by different sources) landed Kohler on the “DL”.
The rehab from the arm injury took Kohler the rest of the regular season, but the good news was that thanks to his work with then-A’s minor league rehab coordinator and current A's minor league pitching coordinator Garvin Alston, Kohler was able to recover without surgery. He threw mostly side-sessions during the A’s fall Instructional League, but he got into a couple of simulated games at the end of the fall camp and the results were encouraging. Kohler had a normal off-season and he will be a part of the A’s spring mini-camp that begins on February 21.
When healthy, Kohler has all of the makings of a solid left-handed starter in the big leagues. His fastball sits in the 89-93 MPH range and he has a sharp breaking ball that can be used as a out-pitch. Kohler’s change-up also made significant progress during the A’s 2013 fall Instructs. Kohler is an excellent athlete with a clean, repeatable delivery.
“He really reminds me of Andy Pettitte,” former A’s minor league pitching coordinator and current bullpen coach Scott Emerson said. “His delivery kind of looks like his. Another kid who wants to succeed. He’s got excellent stuff.”
Despite the lost season, Kohler is still one of the younger pitching prospects in the A’s system with a chance to pitch in full-season ball in 2015. He won’t turn 20 until early May. Kohler may be on an innings limit in 2015 because of the missed time last season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him as part of a tandem starting pitching rotation, where he and another starter are paired up to go a three-to-four innings every five days. Assuming he comes out of spring training healthy and pitching well, Kohler should make his regular season debut with Low-A Beloit, either at the start of the year or after the weather warms.