Tuesday, June 5, 2007

At this point in during the 2006 season, things were bleak for Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman. After hitting an abysmal .152 with only one home run, Casey was placed on the disabled list on May 9th and didn't appear in a Major League game again until Opening Day of 2007.

During the off-season, Angels owner Arte Moreno's promise of a "big splash" in the free agent market led some to believe that any position was up for grabs. However, the free agent market was thin at first base and Bill Stoneman rightfully decided that at the very least Kotchman would out produce hitters such as Aubrey Huff, Sean Casey and Kevin Millar. Besides, there were other options on the table. Outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Gary Matthews Jr., along with the impending free agency of Aramis Ramirez.

As the winter moved on, Ramirez stayed with the Cubs, never allowing the Angels an opportunity to speak with him, the Cubs also outbid the Angels for Soriano. While the Angels did add Gary Matthews to play center field, there was still concern he wasn't the "big bat" needed. First base was a disaster in 2006 without Kotchman, could the Angels compete in 2007 going with an unknown commodity ?

Enter the Todd Helton rumors. With the Colorado Rockies looking to move salary rumors were floated that the teams were discussing Helton to the Angels for Kotchman, Figgins and Aybar. Whether or not it was Helton being uninterested in waiving his no-trade clause or Stoneman deciding he was giving up too much talent for a player with a huge salary on the wrong side of 30. The right move was again made, stick with Kotchman and we'll see what happens.

Fast forward to June of 2007. After getting off to a slow start (.224 BA on May 11) and causing a panic amongst the Halo faithful, Casey Kotchman has caught fire. Since that time Kotchman has produced a .406 ba .471 ob% .684 slg% with 4 home runs, 7 doubles along with 15 rbi and 11 runs scored.

Ironically, the stats Casey Kotchman has produced for the Angels are almost an exact match with Helton.

Kotchman .309 HR 6 RBI 27 OBP .381 SLG .514
Helton .335 HR 6 RBI 29 OBP . .460 SLG . .503

Bill Stoneman stuck with Kotchman and has saved owner Arte Moreno 16,599,615 an unnecessary payroll increase as well as keeping the handy Erick Aybar in the fold.

The moral of the story is patience pays off. While the big names are fun to talk about during the Hot Stove league and Spring Training, sometimes the best thing for a ball club is just to let the talent you already have develop. The Angels are seeing it now out of Kotchman and another young player who started the season in the same dismal manor, Mike Napoli.
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