Roldani Baldwin entered 2018 as the unquestioned top catching prospect in the Boston Red Sox system, but Kole Cottam is giving him a run for his money. Cottam is currently unranked on the MLB’s prospect listings, but SoxProspects.com has Cottam ranked above Baldwin as the Red Sox top catching prospect. What does Cottam bring to the table that makes him such an intriguing prospect?
Red Sox Prospects: Kole Cottam
Cottam first joined the Red Sox as a fourth-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Appearing in 32 games, Cottam spent the grand majority of the year with the short-season Lowell Spinners before making a one-game cameo with the Greenville Drive. During the season, Cottam posted a .236/.278/.390 slash line with an accompanying 96 wRC+. Offensively, Cottam gave the Red Sox everything they could’ve hoped for from the catcher position.
Cottam has the ability to hit for power to all portions of the field, but he doesn’t hit for average. He has an extended swing which can cover the entire plate, and he’s especially gifted at taking pitches the other way. In his 123 at-bats, Cottam hit three home runs, eight doubles, and a triple.
Defensively, Cottam has soft hands and should be able to stick at catcher for the long term. While he’s not a defensive prodigy, he has a quick release and doesn’t waste time getting the ball out of his hand. Cottam is a liability on the basepaths, but that’s expected from the catcher position.
What to Work On
While Cottam has decent power potential, he needs to work on his plate discipline. Cottam is a free-swinger who aggressively goes after any pitch he sees. This leads to him making weak contact on bad pitches while striking out more and walking less. Throughout 2018, Cottam struck out 28 times while walking in just five plate appearances. This will need to improve, as higher-level pitchers will take advantage of Cottam’s subpar plate discipline.
Additionally, Cottam still has a long way to go defensively. While he’s good at catching clean pitches and calling a game, he struggles when he has to move laterally. The young backstop has difficulty picking balls out of the dirt and keeping bad pitches in front of him. Additionally, he has a subpar arm which good baserunner can steal on.
At this point in his career, it’s unlikely that Cottam ever becomes an everyday catcher. His defense can be improved over time, but his weak arm is probably something that cannot be fixed. Additionally, his subpar plate discipline would need to drastically improve. While catchers aren’t expected to be great offensive players, he’ll need to be a bat-first prospect if he’s to climb through the ranks.
That said, it’s not like doomed to be a career minor leaguer. Cottam’s power is legit, and he should be able to refine his defense enough to be a serviceable defender. On top of that, he also has the build to play first base in the future, should the need arrive. However, he’s not nearly fast enough to play anything other than first or catcher.
If all goes well, Cottam could peak as a backup catcher on a major league roster. At the very least, he should have a nice career in AAA, coming up whenever significant injuries strike. Roldani Baldwin might make it to the majors before Cottam, but Cottam has the better chance of sticking at catcher long-term.