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Kotchman’s Last Chance?

With the rumored acquisition of Casey Kotchman, it looks like the former first round pick is getting one more chance. Heading into his age 27 season, coming off two highly disappointing performances, Kotchman is headed for a make-it-or-break-it year. He showed offensive ability in the minors, then had a good season as a 24-year-old in 2007.

But he hasn’t just stagnated, he’s regressed. His power has dried up, as he posted a sad .114 ISO last year, and he doesn’t hit for a high enough average to make that lack of power work. In fact, Kotchman is getting dangerously close to Ben Grieve territory.

Grieve, you’ll remember, was the hot shot top prospect of the A’s who came up in 1997 and made an immediate impact. In 1998, his true rookie year, he posted a .372 wOBA as a 22-year-old, showing both patience and power. He had two more good years, in fact, and looked like on of the better young hitters in baseball. And then he fell apart, and was out of baseball before he turned 30.

Austin Kearns is on a similar career path right now. Once a higly touted prospect, he experienced early career success, but has been terrible of late, and is now relegated to a non-guaranteed, minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians. If Kearns doesn’t show some life in his bat this year, he probably won’t get another shot.

Kotchman isn’t quite there yet, but if he doesn’t hit in 2010, he’ll probably never get another look as a starting first baseman. Defensively, he’s good – everyone knows he can pick it. But he’s great contact skills and a frame that should produce power, but it just hasn’t.

Seattle should be a good fit for him. Safeco Field is friendly to LH hitters, with a short porch down the right field line that turns line drives into home runs. He won’t have to hit 400+ foot shots to get them out to right in Seattle. But he’s going to have to hit 350+ foot shots more regularly than he has.

Right now, Kotchman is unfulfilled potential. He has the talent to be a good player, even if not a star. At 27, it’s time for him to show what he can really do. It’s time to put up or shut up. He won’t be viewed as a guy with potential for much longer. He either shows he can hit in 2010, or he might not be around much longer.