Yesterday, Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Although he seemed to many as the obvious winner of the award, another candidate is probably more deserving. One of the unsung heros in the MLB this season is Rays first baseman, Casey Kotchman. Kotchman, who has had a terrific season, surprised everyone in baseball in 2011. In his career before this year, Casey had never been a good hitter in the majors and mostly showed his skills on the field. His incredible defense at first base was frankly the reason that he made a MLB roster for six years.
After a poor season with Seattle last year, the future looked very dull for the (then) 26 year-old Kotchman going into free agency. When he was signed by the Rays in the offseason, it wasn’t really a shocker that he agreed to a minor league contract. With the big loss of Carlos Pena, the Rays were praying that Casey would be a MLB-quality ballplayer in 2011. Not only did he meet that goal, but he remarkably exceeded the expectations. He lead the Rays in average, batting a terrific .306 this season with maybe his best defensive year of his career. He’s one of the great stories in the big leagues this year with how he turned his career around. Not only did he help himself, but he also was a rock in the Rays lineup all-year long. The Rays definitely wouldn’t be playing October baseball this season if it wasn’t for Kotchman. His clutch hitting, consistent on-base ability, and his stellar defense were all big contributions to the Rays success.
Now on the other side of things, Jacoby Ellsbury has had a unbelievable season up in Boston. He’s a very strong candidate for MVP and every part of his game was excellent this year. Even though he had a better season than Casey, I still don’t think he was deserving of the award. Ellsbury never really had to comeback from anything except injuries; which was the only thing that got in the way of performing last year. He was always a phenom player in my eyes, and after three straight impressive seasons (’07 – ’09) everybody knew that the next healthy season would be another good one. I just wish Kotchman would get more recognition for this season. Winning this award would be a perfect fit for him and all his hard work. Hopefully the Rays will have him next year, so he can once again prove what a great player he is.