Kotchman: Roid Rage?
Forget any comparisons to Wally Joyner, the power-challenged former Halo first baseman. Angel first-baseman-of-the-future Casey Kotchman has, in three games, shattered those old perceptions and suddenly looks more like a juiced Jason Giambi than the slick-fielding singles hitter he had been heretofore described as. Of course, even Joyner had a brief flirtation with power that spawned "Wally World" during his rookie season as did Erstad. So we should probably hold off on annoiting the kid as anything more than 'promising' at this point.
But still, the question of what exactly Casey Kotchman will become is fast becoming an Angel fan favorite. Flash-in-the-pan or Superstar? The next 'Donny Baseball' or a 2010 'Whatever-Happened-To' segment on Angels in the Infield? It is universally accepted that Kotchman is one of the most prized blue chippers that the Angels posses. The only real question is if he can continue to develop as a ballplayer and fulfill his promise. Clearly the next logical progression for Kotchman was to find his power. To develop his plate-discipline beyond being a tough strikeout to being able to recognize and hit 'his' pitches. The ones that find the alleys and the ones that leave the park. In hitting his first, second and third career homers in his first three games this season, it would seem Kotchman has indeed found his power-game. If he can continue to hit the ball off the rocks at Angel Stadium then Darin Erstad could find himself in Troy Glaus limbo as the Angels start envisioning their infield anchored by a couple of players hitting 40 HR's a year for under a million bucks in salary....for both. But with Dallas McPherson battling injuries and Kotchman still unproven, that remains a beautiful but elusive dream for Arte Moreno & Company.
From the outside looking in it would appear that Kotchman would have been an ideal candidate for the BALCO player enhancement program. A great fielder with an undeniable mastery of the strike zone but who had 'warning-track' power. But Kotch also has a father who is a scout for the Angels and with his pedigree, it is not likely he would be foolish enough to experiment with steroids now. Even with limited power numbers Kotchman's ascent to the majors was all but assured. Even if not with the Halos, Kotchman was the subject of rampant trade rumors these season (most sending him to KC for Mike Sweeney). That in and of itself should have told all Angel fans that he was about to breakout. But things are different nowadays in the OC since the GM in Anaheim does not, like his predecessors, trade away prospects for aged power hitters looking for a nice climate to retire in. No, the Angels, undoubtedly tempted to add a bat to a slumping line-up, instead opted for patience. And a reshuffled line-up and a timely call-up. So far it is working (albeit against the D-Rays) but the real test comes in the next three days when the Angels square off with the A's in Oakland. An important series though not do-or-die. But it is an opportunity for the Angels to shove the A-Train off the tracks and try to regain momentum in a division that has been drifting away from them for the past month.