Some guys get all the breaks and some guys get no breaks. Joe Koshansky of the Colorado Rockies falls squarely into the latter group, thanks in no small part to the presence of Mr. Rockie Todd Helton.
Koshansky has slugged 83 home runs in the past three seasons, including 21 in Triple-A in 2007 and 31 in Triple-A in 2008. The 26-year-old first baseman has also shown the ability to hit for a respectable average in Triple-A, having posted lines of .295/.380/.490 in 2007 and .300/.380/.600 in 2008. His ISO was an eye-popping .300 (anyone with an ISO above .200 is considered a power hitter). The left-handed hitter was no softy against southpaws in 2008. He managed a line of .310/.372/.612 in 116 at-bats.
The former sixth round drafted pick out of the University of Virginia, who signed as a senior selection, is running out of time to prove himself. He’ll be 27 in May, which is about the time power hitters tend to hit their stride. Koshansky is roughly the same build as Richie Sexson (although he’s about four inches shorter than the former Cleveland Indians first baseman). Sexson lost his mojo at the age of 32.
Koshansky’s biggest weakness would be the strikeout. He has posted strikeout rates in the past three seasons of 26.8%, 25.7%, and 34.6%. The first baseman has also begun to earn a bit of a reputation as a possible Quad-A slugger thanks to his struggles at the Major League level in the past two seasons, albeit in a small sample size. Koshansky has a career line of .180/.236/.440 with three home runs in 50 at-bats. Both the CHONE and Marcel projection systems see Koshansky as a .250 hitter. CHONE sees Koshansky as having the ability to slug 25 home runs at the Major League level with regular playing time. Those numbers are not outstanding, but there are a few teams in Major League Baseball that could use that kind of power production.
At 35, Helton’s best days as a power hitter are behind him after managing home run totals of 15, 17, and seven in the past three seasons. Even so, Helton is still a .300 hitter (the injury-marred 2008 season aside) and, in his last two healthy seasons in 2006 and 2007, he drove in a total of 207 runs. He also scored 172 runs. Coming off a poor season due to injuries, and with three more years plus an option remaining on his contract totaling just shy of $60 million, Helton is not going anywhere.
It’s also disconcerting for Koshansky’s future in Colorado that he did not receive more opportunities in 2008 after Helton appeared in just 83 games. The Louisiana native was given just eight starts at first base last season and the club moved third baseman Garrett Atkins across the diamond to allow Ian Stewart the opportunity to play everyday at the hot corner during Helton’s time off.
Clearly, if Koshansky is going to earn a fair shot at a starting role at the Major League level it is not going to come in Colorado. Teams that could use a first baseman or designated hitter include Washington, Florida, Seattle, Los Angeles (AL), and Baltimore (although that club has a crowded outfield picture).