Casey Kotchman ended up playing ten seasons in the major leagues, but his career never delivered on the promise he showed as a young prospect for the Angels, perhaps because the team gave up on him too quickly.
Kotchman was selected 13th overall by the Angels in the 2001 draft after playing for Seminole High School, the top high school team in the country. Baseball America ranked him the best high school player that season with scouts at the time envisioning him as a “Rafael Palmeiro type,” capable of hitting both for power and average.
Kotchman showed off his hitting ability two years later in High-A ball when he batted .350 with hit 8 home runs over 57 games. He would continue an easy transition through the minors in Triple-A where he slashed an explosive .372/.423/.558 in 2004, after which Baseball America ranked him as the sixth best prospect in all of baseball.
The 6-foot-3 first baseman found some playing time with the Angels in 2004 and 2005, but got his real first shot in 2006 when Darin Erstad was moved to center field. However, Kotchman struggled with the opportunity, batting .152, before being diagnosed with mononucleosis. He missed most of the 2006 season, returning in 2007 when he finally played his first full season in the big leagues.
Kotchman’s 2007 campaign turned out to be the best season of his career. He batted .296/.372/.467 with 11 home runs, while playing an excellent first base. He seemed on the cusp of developing into the player the Angels had drafted, when in 2008, the team traded him in a deal for Mark Teixeira, a rental player, who they hoped would put them over the top in a quest for a second championship.
While Teixeira had an amazing final two months of the season for the Angels in 2008, batting .358 and clobbering 13 home runs in just 54 games, the Halos already had a strong division lead when they acquired him, and come playoff time, even his .467 average in the ALDS couldn’t get the Halos past Boston.
Teixeira signed with the Yankees after the 2008 season, and Kotchman was essentially lost for nothing. Of course, from the Braves perspective, the trade is viewed quite differently, having lost one of their best hitters, while still in contention for the playoffs, in return for a young player who hit .157 in his first 20 games with the team. Kotchman developed into a journeyman, appearing on seven different teams over his career. But you have to wonder what could have happened if he was given more time to develop in Anaheim.