BBDP Nickname: Cotham City
Weight: 210 pounds
Max velocity: 96
Born in: Mt. Juliet, Tennessee
No one has moved through the system faster in the past two seasons than Caleb Cotham. Part of this is because of his age and because his career started off slowly due to injury. The other part is because he has great polish and solid stuff.
Raised in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, Cotham went to Vanderbilt and was drafted by the Yankees in the 5th round of the 2009 draft. He signed for $675,000. His first season as a pro he re-aggravated a knee injury and was shut down for the season. He did not pitch again until 2011, when he served as an effective reliever in Staten Island.
In 2012 he went back to his starting ways, posting a 3.64 ERA over 101.1 innings and striking out 76 to 29 walks over two levels. He started the season in Low-A and moved up to Tampa about 1/3 of the way through. He did not pitch particularly well while in Tampa, but it was good enough for the Yankees to start him in Double-A in 2013.
Call it luck, opportunity, or maybe he’s just that good, but he got promoted to Triple-A this season after just 25 innings pitched in Double-A. So far this season he has managed to post a 3.64 ERA and 25 K in 29.2 IP. He has done a lot of good things so far in his career and has moved quickly because of his polish and good stuff.
Cotham will mostly sit in the low 90’s with the fastball but has been known to get up to the mid 90’s on occasion. He’s from a similar mold as guys like David Phelps and Adam Warren, but he throws a heavy sinker and an upper 80’s slider that is better than either Warren or Phelps can throw. He has really worked to improve his changeup, which is now a decent third pitch for him. He also has a decent feel for the curveball, which is currently major league average.
At 6-foot-3, 210-pounds Cotham certainly has the size to be a workhorse type. He has already proven he can throw over 100 innings last season, and he will look to build on that number in 2013. So far so good. He also has a bit of projection left in the tank because of his size.
Cotham also has great pitchability. The best thing about him is that he keeps the ball down in the zone. This is something that will serve him well if he ever gets the opportunity to pitch in Yankees stadium. He has 4.5 BB/9 IP this season so far, but that is not characteristic of his career. The fact that he has done so well despite walking so many is actually a good sign, as he is unlikely to continue walking this many throughout the season.
When you take a step back and look at his stuff, you can start to appreciate why the Yankees have moved him so fast. The Yankees have had success grooming players similar to him lately, and he has become a legitimate candidate to become a starter in the organization.
Right now he projects as a third or fourth starter, but that could change as he gets further and further from his injuries. His velocity could spike even more, and his stuff still has some room for improvement.
At the current rate, there’s no reason Cotham won’t pitch a few innings for the New York Yankees in 2014. He will be 26 so it is approaching do or die time for him, but with his stuff and success so far in his career, he has a decent shot at hitting his ceiling.
Cotham was one of the “just missed the list” players in our preseason top 50, but he is quickly proving that he should have been included on the list. As the season goes on, we should get a better idea of what we have in Cotham, and how much he can truly help the Yankees. At worst, he projects as a power reliever who has some late inning potential. At best, he has the chance to be a solid number two or number three in the long term.