Scouting Yankees Prospect #32: Caleb Cotham

It's all about developing the changeup for Cotham

The Yankees selected right-handed pitcher Caleb Cotham in the fifth round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt University. Knee surgery the day before the draft put him on the shelf for most of the 2009 season so he made just a handful of appearances for the Yankees, but he offers a ton of upside going forward.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Caleb Cotham
Position: Pitcher
DOB: November 6, 1987
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He injured his knee about halfway through the SEC conference schedule in his junior season last year. The doctors diagnosed it as a partially torn meniscus in his right knee and they told him he would eventually have to have surgery on it or it could be a lingering problem throughout the rest of his baseball life.

"I decided to pitch on it," he said. "I just taped it up and I was on medicine for the rest of the year, and the day after our season at Vanderbilt ended I had the surgery.

"That was [also] the day before the draft. I went into the draft with everyone knowing that I needed to have surgery."

Some teams believed he would possibly go back to college as a result of the injury and some were thinking if he had returned that he would have been a first round pick next year, but the Yankees took a chance on him anyway.

"We're excited about Caleb," Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told PinstripesPlus.com on draft day. "We saw him quite a bit this year.

"We scouted him a ton of times. He performed well. The guy's got a chance to be a solid Major League starter."

He rehabbed his way back for a few weeks after being drafted and made a handful of appearances in the Cape Cod League. He pitched well enough and eventually signed with the Yankees on August 15th for $650,000.

After making one appearance with the Gulf Coast League Yankees he pitched in just two more games with the Staten Island Yankees before they decided to shut him down for the rest of the year to rest his knee, but the Yankees liked what they saw.

"I saw him throw one inning in the Gulf Coast League," Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said. "In that outing he showed a power fastball, a hard slider, and a changeup. He threw all three pitches for strikes and he pitched well."

Dealing with a nagging injury didn't allow Cotham to show his true self with the Yankees and he is eager to do just that in his first full season.

"I can't even describe it," Cotham said in anticipation of the 2010 season. "That's all I've been thinking about since I got sent home. I got a taste of professional baseball [last year] but I didn't get to do what I wanted to do and compete the way I wanted to compete.

"Just to have a chance with an organization like the Yankees, I couldn't be more excited. I can't really describe it."

And how is the knee doing with the new season rapidly approaching?

"I've gone through the whole offseason workout program with no problems," he revealed. "I'm just getting my arm in shape. I haven't really had to worry about my knee. I'm just looking forward to getting to Tampa."

Known for his power fastball-power slider combination, aside from further indoctrinating himself to the professional game, the biggest thing he'll be working on going forward is developing his changeup.

"Obviously I'm going to have to put more work into it now," he admitted. "Especially in professional baseball, you have to have three pitches to show. In college with the aluminum bats I didn't trust the changeup as much because with the aluminum bats you can't get away with it as much.

"For me it's just a mentality pitch. I throw it with confidence, but for me it's just going out there and throwing it more. I feel like it's going to develop. I just haven't thrown it enough [yet] for it to develop."

Many team insiders aren't overly concerned with his ability to develop that aspect since he is a throwback player who attacks the game in every sense of the word.

"I know that's cliché but my best attribute is knowing what you're going to get when I go out there," Cotham opined. "I'm going to give it everything I've got. Some days the results are not going to be what I want, but that's the game of baseball, it's a game of failure.

"I understand mental parts of the game that allows me to stay within myself and use what I've developed to give my team the best chance of winning."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2009

Staten Island

0-1

0

6.0

5

3

8

4.50

2009

GCL Yankees

0-0

0

2.0

2

0

5

0.00



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Cotham enters the professional ranks reportedly boasting two different fastballs. He throws a sinking two-seamer in the 90-92 mph range, but his main pitch is a power four-seamer that purportedly sits in the 92-95 mph range and tops out on occasion at 96 mph.

Other Pitches. Cotham's main secondary pitch is a power slider that sits in the 84-87 mph range and it's his main go-to pitch for strikeouts. He has supreme confidence to locate his slider and he will throw it in any count and in any situation. Cotham himself readily admits that his changeup is merely in the development stage right now. He would like to slow it down a bit and use the same arm speed as his fastball, and he would also like to improve his command of it. He does have the confidence to throw it though and not shying away from it will be a big key in its development.

Pitching. Cotham endeared himself to scouts with his old school style of attacking batters and not trying to paint the corners. He doesn't mind pitching to contact with his two-seamer, but he also has the killer instinct to punch guys out when he is ahead in the count. He is very well built and that allows him to maintain his velocity deep into his starts. But more than anything, it's his plus makeup that stands above his stuff. He's simply not afraid to fail, making him a true bulldog on the mound.

Projection. Like most young power pitchers starting their professional careers, Cotham's ultimate big league projection will solely lie on his ability to further develop his changeup. If he can do that he easily has middle of the rotation type of stuff, maybe a tick above. But until he can develop that changeup into a big league pitch, with his power fastball, power slider, and bulldog approach, he best projects as a future setup guy or possible closer.

ETA. 2013. Cotham should get his first full minor league season in anchoring the Charleston Riverdogs rotation in 2010.

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