Casey Kotchman is having a career-year with the Rays, hitting .326, third in the American League. Kotchman will also be a free agent at the end of the year, and as we look forward to 2012, the Rays need to decide if he is worth bringing back.

There are some that believe Kotchman’s season has been an aberration and that he has just been lucky. The key number is his BABIP. When Kotchman hits a ball fair, his batting average is a huge .363. Based on some of his other peripheral numbers, that number should be closer to .305.

This suggests that he has been extremely lucky this year. And if that is true, then it is unlikely that he will be able to repeat his performance next season.

But is it just luck?

If we look closer at Kotchman’s numbers, we see a hitter that is perfectly suited to hit in the middle of the Rays order, and a player that might just be taking advantage of those circumstances.

Kotchman is a pull hitter, especially when he hits the ball on the ground. And this year, he is hitting groundballs 57.3 percent of the time, the highest rate in his career.

Now let’s look at where Kotchman has had his most success.

With a runner on first base, Kotchman is hitting a whopping .442 in 52 at bats this season. It may not seem like much, but if we remove those at bats, Kotchman’s batting average falls to .302. Still good. But not quite good enough to carry his lack of power at first base.

The Rays may not have a

deep lineup. But at the top of the order, they do have some guys that can get on base, and who like to run. And with the first baseman holding those runners on, it opens up the right side of the infield for a guy whose strength is groundballs to the right side.

Has Kotchman been lucky? Maybe. But he is also taking advantage of an advantageous position.

And when it comes to 2012, it may be in the best interest of both sides for Kotchman to come back for an encore.

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9 Comments

  1. Don says:

    Kotch is one of the few hitters on this team(others zo & Damon) that know how to use a baseball bat...now with eye problems in the past he is a lifetime (now on) .300 hitter
    SIGN this guy NOW, give him a Zobrist like offer for the next 5 years,
    THey can't get anyone better for Rays type PAY

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    • William says:

      Don, why do I have a feeling last year you were one screaming the loudest to get rid of Shields?

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  2. Neal says:

    Of all the new faces, I'd like to see Kotch and Damon back next year. Kotchman will be in line for more money but I don't think it will be too much. Damon, if anything, will go down in price as he gets older.

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  3. Joey says:

    We need thumpers in this lineup. That's what is missing the most. Carl and Pena's missing rbi are what's killing us. If Kotch is going to take up first base until Malm is ready which probably is 3 years from now, then we need other positions to step up the power production. With our outfield possibly set for the next several years with Des, BJ and Joyce the only way this can get done is 4 ways.

    1. Longo needs to wake up.
    2. S Rod plays everyday at short and heats up. (The guy hit almost 60 bombs in approx 500 PA's in AAA. The potential is there).
    3. An arm in the off season absolutely has to get dealt for a power hitting catcher.
    4. We need a Power DH that this team has been trying to acquire since Gomes left.

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  4. Joey says:

    One crazy prediction but may be worth a shot is Steven Vogt as our DH. This guy has crushed pitching with power at every level and now he's doing it in AAA. He's not very defensive savy but can serve as a backup catcher if need be. I'd give him a shot out of camp next spring.

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  5. Gus says:

    Kotchman is from Seminole in Pinellas County. According to management, he would be 12% better if he were from Hillsborough County.

    Of course they should sign him. They have no 1B in the system and he'll come in around $3M a year or so, I'm guessing. If they think Upton is worth $5M a year when they have better players than him below him, Kotchman is a worthwhile sign. Hometown boy who will take a hometown discount, one year removed from signing a minor league deal. Plus his dad has Maddon connections being an Angels scout.

    Instead of Sam Fuld cape day honoring the 5th OF, they should be promoting local players who are solid contributors/emerging stars(Kotchman, Joyce and WD-40) who have ties with the community. Matt Joyce Brandon Day? Davis Polk County day. Kotchman Seminole Day.

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  6. Alex says:

    Kotchman said recently in the paper that he feels comfortable with the Rays because he lives in the area and obviously went to high school here. He also said he would like to stay with the Rays for those reasons

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  7. Joe says:

    For the simple reason that our answer at 1B is either move Zo, S-Rod or Joyce there when they know how to play defense or wait for Malm who is a good 4 years away, I give Kotchman another 1 year deal. Go year to year with him. He has been great but I still never know what to expect with him and he is a weird dude, getting ready to hit, in the field, he is just an akward man. Anyway, lack of options for 1B and him in love with Tampa tells me to at least try another year with him. I mean, why not, we were planning to let Dan Johnson play all year.

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  8. patrick walton says:

    if the rays don't resign kotchman they are out of their friggin minds. where are they going to get the defense he provides for that price, and hogwash on him being lucky at the plate. as many fans are talking (and the management should be listening) for the price you cannot possibly get more or better value.

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