Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. I know this because that’s precisely what it says at the end of all his articles for MLB.com, including his latest, in which he touts David Cooper’s tools.
Yes, that David Cooper.
It’s not exactly a full-on firecracker of a glowing scouting report, but it’s certainly an interesting one, especially given that most of what we tend to think of Cooper is… well… it’s not very good.
Pleskoff notes, quite rightly, that speed and defence aren’t Cooper’s greatest assets, explaining that “he can make the average play but he might not save many errant throws or make diving, spectacular plays around the bag. It will be his bat that must sustain him at the Major League level.” And perhaps surprisingly, he sees in Cooper the tools to actually, possibly, make such a thing happen.
Pleskoff watched Cooper as he struggled through the 2009 Arizona Fall League, but took away some positives from what he saw. “It wasn’t an eye-opening performance at all,” he writes. “But I did see promise and upside due to the strength of the various hitting components of his game. He knew the strike zone and he made pitchers work deep into counts. I felt the power would arrive. It is a fact that latent power is not uncommon with many players built and developed like Cooper.”
Those positives remained evident this season, as “he had struck out only 19 times in 185 plate-appearances,” before getting the call to Toronto, “an outstanding indication of his solid contact hitting and good plate discipline.”
The knock on Cooper, of course, is that his lack of power makes him an inadequate fit for the only position he’s able to play, first base. Pleskoff explains that this is something that’s definitely being acknowledged and addressed. “This past offseason, Cooper made improving his overall strength a primary conditioning goal,” he writes. “He hopes added muscle will make the difference between hitting balls over the fence as opposed to hitting them in the gaps.”
We’ve yet to see many of the fruits of those labours, as none of the home runs Cooper hit prior to moving up to Toronto came outside the thin, dry air of Cashman Field in Las Vegas, but he only just turned 25 in February, and it’s not exactly impossible to think that there could still power to be developed.
“History has shown that it takes time, effort and repetition against increasingly better quality pitching to realize potential,” we’re told. “Cooper appears to be maturing as a hitter. His increased strength may be the final addition to his overall physical maturation.”
It’s long been the general consensus that Cooper is more of a Quad-A, fringe prospect, Org. guy who wouldn’t have been so overlooked the past two years, as he piled up Triple-A successes while the Jays got jack shit from the guy ahead of him on the depth chart, had the club thought any differently of him. The call-up of Yan Gomes ahead of Cooper when Adam Lind was demoted seemed yet another signal that this was the mindset, but perhaps we’ve come to this conclusion too hastily, and largely out of the necessity of pushing back so hard against the tidal wave of casual misinterpretation of his PCL stats.
I’d never suggest that an added dimension of significant power, at this stage, is a development to be expected, or that anybody is wrong to suggest that right now, as is, slugging under .400 and coasting along nicely on a .389 BABIP, he’s a viable long-term option at first base. But maybe there’s something to the notions of latent power that Pleskoff seems to believe are the final piece of the puzzle.
At the very least, as long as he keeps on hitting singles, with the occasional double mixed in, and gets his walk rate back up closer to the 10% range he’s capable of, I’m starting to think it’s maybe not entirely crazy to give him some kind of fraction of the amount of rope that was given to goddamned Adam Lind to see what truly is there. I’m not about to bet on Cooper coming anywhere close to his PCL levels of production, but it’s not an incorrect notion that he’s got some decent tools at the plate, and perhaps we should maybe think twice before turning up our noses at a mere singles hitter, given some of the black holes we’ve seen in the Jays’ lineup so far this year.
It’s not like there’s a whole lot of downside, at the moment, given what little else is kicking around to replace him with.