It may seem strange to talk about a guy who hit .319 in 2017 as a potential breakout candidate, but 2018 very well could be the year of Kole Cottam.
The uber-talented junior catcher from Knoxville made great strides in his approach at the plate during his sophomore season. Cottam’s on-base percentage rose 43 points while his strikeout to walk ratio dropped. His home run total rose from one as a freshman to seven as a sophomore. After UK’s season concluded, Cottam continued to hit well in the wood-bat Cape Cod League where he hit .277 in 20 games.
“I ended up last year doing pretty well, and I tried to build on that,” Cottam said. “I just tried to take what I learned in the back half of last year and the summer and early fall and keep going forward and make some improvements on the field in the spring.”
At 6’3” 225, Cottam is perhaps the strongest player on the team, and he uses that strength to spray the ball to all fields. UK will need Cottam’s prowess at the plate in 2018 as they try to replace the likes of Evan White, Riley Mahan, and Marcus Carson in the heart of the lineup. Those around the program expect Cottam to carry a lot of weight at the plate this season.
“Kole Cottam is a guy that’s much improved, and from all areas of his game, from mentally, physically, the way he carries himself, all of that is better,” Nick Mingione said at Media Day. “I look for him to have a very, very special year for us.”
One of my favorite players Kole Cottam at work here! pic.twitter.com/h68BVMggRw
— Russ Ford (@russford12) May 24, 2017
Cottam showed his feel at the plate in the back half of 2017. After collecting five hits in three games in the SEC Tournament, Cottam went 5/11 in elimination games in the Lexington Regional. The biggest of those five hits came in the Regional Championship against NC State. Tied at five in the seventh inning, Cottam ripped a two-run double off the right-field wall to send UK to their first Super Regional. Cottam’s double was arguably the biggest in school history, but the junior is looking forward to 2018.
“It does motivate me a lot to try to pick up where I left off,” Cottam said. “I’ll always think about that, but that’s something I got to put behind me and hopefully have a few more this year.”
Cottam is one of only three returning players that appeared in more than 50 games last year. UK lost 69 percent of their offensive starts after last year, but Cottam believes that both he and the offense will pick up where they left off in 2017. “I think we can do something special,” Cottam said. “Just like last year, there’s a lot of question marks in the beginning, but I think we’re really going to shore that up and show everybody the offense we have and that production that we can make.”