20. Can Kotchman be an effective 1B in 2009?

He's no Mark Teixeira, but can Casey Kotchman be an effective first baseman?

When the Braves traded Mark Teixeira to the Angels in late July, they were excited to acquire first baseman Casey Kotchman in the deal. He was leading the Angels in hits at the time, playing stellar defense, and emerging as a team leader in the Los Angeles clubhouse.

But Kotchman had a rough go at it as a Brave. His mother fell in in mid-August, which caused Kotchman to miss significant time away from the team. He did better after he returned (.305 batting average and a .394 OBP in September), but his numbers were still somewhat disappointing.

Overall, between the Angels and Braves, Kotchman hit .272 with 14 home runs, 74 RBI, and a .328 OBP in 525 at bats. With Atlanta, his overall numbers included a .237 batting average, a .331 OBP, two home runs, and 20 RBI in 152 at bats.

So can Kotchman duplicate his overall numbers for the 2009 season, or were his struggles in the National League something to be concerned about?

The fourteen home runs are somewhere near where most have projected Kotchman to be with his power. It's likely he could be in the 15-20 home run per season range with consistent playing time.

If the Braves can get Kotchman to produce 80 RBI a season and an OBP near what he had for the Angels in 2007 (.372 OBP), they'll be happy.

Of course, that's not what Teixeira would have been able to produce, but Braves fans are simply going to have to prepare for a different type of player.

Defensively, Kotchman is very good. He had a 1.000 fielding percentage with the Braves, with no errors in 390 total chances. Kotchman may be a step below Teixeira with the glove, but he's still a Gold Glove caliber player at first base.

Many of the Angels were upset at the trade, mainly due to the presence Kotchman had in the Los Angeles clubhouse. He was considered one of the team leaders, and that might be a perfect role for him with the Braves once he gets more comfortable.

Kotchman is a better player than what he showed after the trade. Obviously, his mother's illness had an effect on him. So hopefully he'll be ready to go and become a very significant member of the Braves lineup for the 2009 season.

Bill Shanks hosts The Braves Show Talk Show, The Atlanta Baseball Show on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, and The Bill Shanks Show on SportsRadio 105.5 the Fan in Macon. He is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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