Right-hander Caleb Cotham is holding down a spot in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen at the beginning of 2016. He's already seen frequent usage, appearing in four of Cincinnati's first seven games, throwing four shutout innings on three hits and two walks (with zero strikeouts). What can we expect over the longer term?
Cotham was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in the fifth round in 2009 out of Vanderbilt University. Although used as a starter in college, many scouts visualized him as a reliever at higher levels. The Yankees used him as a starter through the minors, with uninspiring results. A 5.48 ERA in 95 innings in Triple-A in 2013 was typical.
Cotham moved to the bullpen full time in 2015 and was more effective, posting a 2.21 ERA with a 61/13 K/BB in 57 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He appeared in the majors for the first time, posting a fine 11/1 K/BB in 9.1 innings for the Yankees but giving up 14 hits, four homers, and a 6.52 ERA.
The Reds obtained him as part of the Aroldis Chapman deal and Cotham earned a spot in the bullpen by posting a 16/1 K/BB in 12.2 spring training innings, albeit with a 5.68 ERA and 17 hits allowed.
He is a 6-3, 215 pound right-hander, age 28. His fastball is in the 90-94 range, essentially average, and he relies very heavily on his slider: he's thrown 232 pitches in the majors and 123 of them have been sliders according to Pitch F/x. He avoids excessive walks and has shown moderate ground ball tendencies in the minors, though he showed home run vulnerability in the majors giving up four long flies with the Yankees last year, two to left-handed hitter and two to right-handers.
Overall, Cotham projects as a middle reliever and a back-end bullpen arm for most major league staffs.