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Dodgers 2018 top prospects: No. 15, Morgan Cooper

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In a 2017 draft class heavy in pitching prospects, Morgan Cooper leads the way in being closest to the major leagues and most likely to stick as a starter. A 2014 Tommy John surgery and his age as a four-year college junior likely made Cooper available to the Dodgers at the 62nd pick, though I had him ranked considerably higher at 44 in my pre-draft rankings. Cooper has a combination of size, stuff, and performance that could see him pushed quickly through the ranks in hopes of him becoming a mid-rotation starter.

The book on Cooper remains largely unchanged from June as he was withheld from starting his pro career this summer after an extensive college workload in the spring. Two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery now and Cooper now looks the part of a solid starting pitcher with three pitches he can throw for strikes, leading with his plus curveball.

Cooper’s curveball is a late-sharp breaker that can look like a spike curve at times, but his command and ability to locate the pitch suggest it’s a purer curve. He can drop it over the shoulder of right handed hitters for strikes, but often times he chooses to attack hitters over the plate with the pitch, generating swinging strikes.

Cooper’s fastball generally hovered in the low 90s and would dip a little lower when fatigue set in, but he has the frame and athleticism to suggest that he will hold his velocity with more mound work post surgery. His fastball has some riding life to his glove side and even in the lower ranges of his velocity looks as if it’s sneaking past the hitter. Given the spin rate he likely needs to generate the sharp break on his curve, I would not be surprised if the spin rate was also fairly high on his fastball given the missed swings under the pitch.

The changeup is Cooper’s third pitch, but it’s a solid offering that still has room for improvement. Its best attribute is the command he exhibits on the pitch, but he does get decent fade and can use the pitch as a chase offering for left handed hitters.

While Cooper’s stuff passes muster as a potential big league starter, his college performance is what elevates his prospect status. Cooper led the Big XII with 110 strikeouts, with a rate of 11.08 per 9 innings. Given the level of competition Cooper faced (Big XII led the nation in conference RPI), his ability to miss bats at an elite level likely stood out for Dodger evaluators. Additionally, Cooper was extremely tough for hitters to square, allowing just two home runs and a .204 average against over 89 innings.

While the Dodgers may continue to work to limit Cooper’s workload in 2018, he has the build of the prototypical innings eater. Cooper is a listed 6’5 and 220 lbs, and controls his long limbs fairly well. He delivery has some effort with a slight stab in the back, but this has not hampered his ability to throw strikes. Cooper carries his weight well enough and is lean enough to suggest that some added mass is possible, but having spent four years at the University of Texas, he’s close to a finished product physically.

The best case scenario for Cooper is that a controlled pitching environment might help Cooper tap into his upper band velocity more frequently, and should he eventually settle into the 95-96 mph range with that late life, he could reach number two starter status. His strikeout production and swing and miss curveball at least given him a higher floor than his peers in the 2017 Dodger draft class.

Given his age, college production, and the colder early months in the Midwest League, it would not surprise me to see the Dodgers skip Cooper to the California League to start the season. Even with a brief stop in Low-A, I believe Double-A is an attainable goal for Cooper in 2018 even if he doesn’t exceed 100 innings. Cooper is already an advanced prospect despite having yet to make his professional debut, so I expect the Dodgers to push him quickly up the ladder, and could be in the big league picture as early as late 2019, health permitting.

2018 top Dodgers prospects

RK NAME POS OD AGE LEVEL OVERALL RISK CEILING PROS CONS
RK NAME POS OD AGE LEVEL OVERALL RISK CEILING PROS CONS
15 Morgan Cooper RHSP 23.06 NA 55 50 55 good frame, + BB with BB manipulation, production injury history, longer arm action, ceiling more #3
16 Gavin Lux SS 20.04 LoA 55 50 55 should stick at SS, athletic, plate discipline at age overall offensive ceiling, some hit struggles early
17 Jordan Sheffield RHSP/RP 22.10 HiA 55 45 60 electric arm, + present fastball and CV, athletic production doesn't match stuff, likely reliever
18 Imani Abdullah RHSP 20.11 LoA 55 45 60 excellent frame, upside, feel for spin on CB 17 a redshirt year, limited exposure, little stiff
19 Kyle Farmer C/3B 27.07 MLB 50 50 45 good feel for hit, offensive profile at C, utility more productive bench bat then starter, age
20 Caleb Ferguson LHSP 21.09 HiA 50 45 50 K production, 3 pitch mix, command, feel for spin upside more mid rotation, maxed out frame
21 Connor Wong C/2B 21.10 LoA 50 45 50 versatile talent, good athlete for a C, solid power prod some swing and miss, build not projectable
22 Josh Sborz RHSP/RP 24.03 AA 50 45 50 high floor, command of three pitches, competitive stuff has backed up this season, likely reliever
23 James Marinan RHSP 19.06 ROK 50 40 55 projectable frame, flashes + SNK, chance for +CH slurvy BB, more middle than upper rotation upside
24 Devin Smeltzer LHSP 22.08 HiA 50 45 50 high pitchability, 3 pitch mix, throws nothing straight fringe avg velo, 4th or 5th starter ceiling
25 Matt Beaty 1B/LF 24.11 AA 50 45 50 excellent feel for hit, career production, game pop limited ceiling, future defensive home
26 Andrew Sopko RHSP 23.08 AA 50 50 45 3 pitch mix, pitchability, command, deceptive velo can be fringy, bottom rotation upside
27 Ariel Sandoval CF/RF 22.05 HiA 50 35 60 livey athlete, raw power, arm, 2nd half production too raw at plate, noisey set-up, high swing and miss
28 Tim Locastro SS/2B/CF 25.09 AAA 50 45 45 good bat to ball skills, high steal rate, versatile fringe pop, stretched at SS and CF, upside
29 Jake Peter 2B/SS 24.11 AAA 50 45 45 fluid LH swing, arm strength, versatile utility/bench upside, ? on overall pop
30 Yaisel Sierra RHRP 27.01 AAA 50 40 50 good velo, SL will flash +, quick arm command, incon. release, FB can be straight
31 Wilmer Font RHSP/RP 27.10 MLB 50 40 50 excellent K production, rise on FB, + SL age, previous command issues, upside
32 Ibandel Isabel 1B 22.09 HiA 50 30 60 ++ raw power, physical build, strength huge swing and miss, poor defender, raw
33 Mitchell Hansen CF/RF 21.11 SS 45 40 55 chance for 5 tools, upside, projectable frame struggling to break full season, swing and miss
34 Errol Robinson SS 23.06 AA 45 45 50 smooth infield actions, throwing arm, solid athlete better long speed than SB threat, off. ceiling
35 Johan Mieses RF/CF 22.09 AA 45 40 55 impressive arm, defensive ceiling, raw power serious swing and miss concerns
36 Omar Estevez 2B/SS 20.01 HiA 45 40 55 added defensive versatility, some feel for hit production stagnated at Hi A, power potential
37 Donovan Casey CF/RF 22.01 SS 45 45 50 twitchy athlete, production, solid bat to ball skills ceiling more 4th OF than starter, power ceiling
38 Edward Paredes LHRP 31.06 MLB 45 45 45 K production, tough on LHH, + SL age, one pitch reliever, LOOGY upside
39 Rob Segedin 3B/LF 29.05 MLB 45 45 45 hit vs lefties, gets most of tools, avg pop bench bat upside, limited defender, upside
40 Drew Jackson SS/2B 24.09 AA 45 40 50 elite athlete, + to ++ speed and arm strength offense improving but limited ceiling, utility upside
41 Wills Montgomerie RHSP/RP 22.10 LoA 45 40 50 spin rate, durable build, flashes + velo and CV uneven production, command wavers
42 Cody Thomas RF 23.06 LoA 45 35 55 great build, good athlete, chance for above avg pop still raw, swing and miss concerns
43 Jesen Therrien RHRP 25.00 AAA 45 45 45 SL flashes +, good command and K production TJ wipes out '18. middle relief/ROOGY upside
44 Carlos Rincon RF 20.06 SS 45 35 55 big raw power, physical upside, bat speed pretty raw offensively, serious swing and miss
45 Kyle Garlick CF/RF/LF 26.02 AA 45 45 45 productive, feel for hitting, avg pop 4th outfielder profile, age, fringe speed
46 Luke Raley LF/RF 23.06 HiA 45 40 50 muscular build, chance for above avg pop just avg bat speed, possible swing and miss
47 Luis Paz 1B/C 21.09 SS 45 40 50 power production, bat speed, strong build ? on ultimate defensive home, avg athlete
48 Riley Ottesen RHRP 23.05 LoA 45 40 50 good velo, will flash + SL, arm speed poor college production, likely reliever only
49 Rylan Bannon 3B 21.11 SS 45 45 45 college/pro production, good feel for hit, game pop skills over tools, ceiling, possible utility upside
50 Leo Crawford LHSP 21.01 LoA 45 40 50 solid production, command of 3 pitch mix fringe velo, not as projectable, likely back end
51 Zach Reks LF/RF 24.05 HiA 45 45 45 feel for hit, on base skills, productive - power, age, 4th OF profile
52 Romer Cuadrado LF/RF 20.08 SS 45 35 55 excellent frame, chance for + raw power development lagging behind age, swing and miss
53 Ryan Moseley RHRP 23.06 LoA 45 40 50 chance for ++ snk, big groundball potential struggles with command, results don't match stuff
54 Jared Walker 3B/RF 22.02 LoA 45 40 50 + size/athleticism combo, chance for hit/power, + arm raw, buggy whip swing, error prone in IF
55 Zach Pop RHRP 21.06 NA 45 40 50 good life/velo combo on FB, solid build, poss. CH mid relief profile, SL loses shape in low slot
56 Corey Copping RHRP 24.03 AA 45 45 45 good SL, bulldog mentality, decent production FB velo avg to fringe, middle relief ceiling
57 Shea Spitzbarth RHRP 23.06 AA 45 45 45 agressive mound demeanor, arm strength, CV middle relief upside, maxed out frame, size
58 Layne Somsen RHRP 28.10 AA 45 45 45 tough overhead BB, production, athletic limited mid relief ceiling, age, avg FB velo
59 Tony Gonsolin RHRP 23.11 HiA 45 40 50 arm speed, flashes + SL, solid K production lithe build, not quite late relief upside
60 Alfredo Tavarez RHSP/RP 20.04 LoA 45 35 50 king sized frame, arm strength, K production still raw mechanically, repeating arm slot, command
61 Aneurys Zabala RHRP 21.03 LoA 45 40 50 will flash ++ arm strength, some feel for spin relief profile, command, limited physical upside
62 Michael Boyle LHSP 23.11 HiA 45 40 45 pitch movement, pitchability, 3 pitches no plus pitch, fringy velo, #5 starter/swingman
63 Jefrey Souffront 2B/3B 20.11 ROK 45 35 50 some feel for hit, quick bat, mature plate approach distance from the majors, build not projectable
64 Jacob Amaya SS/2B 19.02 ROK 45 35 50 chance to stick at SS, good athlete, some feel for hit distance from majors, offensive ceiling
65 Ronny Brito SS 19.00 SS 45 35 50 infield actions, long athlete, chance to hit ? on overall offensive potential, far from majors
66 Logan Crouse RHRP 21.04 LoA 45 35 50 size, projectability, athleticism in delivery, arm action Fringy present velo, lots of projection left
67 Chris Mathewson RHSP/RP 21.10 HiA 45 40 45 SNK/SL mix, solid production, command back of rotation, middle relief upside, fringe velo
68 Adam Bray RHSP 24.11 HiA 45 40 45 durability, feel for spin, good command fringe starter upside, upside, avg K potential
69 Brian Moran LHRP 29.06 AA 40 40 45 funk in delivery, tough in LHH, K potential limited ceiling, fringe velo, age
70 Nolan Long RHRP 24.02 HiA 40 40 45 long frame, athletic for size, FB flashes + long levers to control, command, likely reliever
71 Mike Ahmed 1B/3B 26.02 AA 40 40 45 productive in '16, swing plane, avg pop bat speed, age, limited upside
72 Nathan Witt RHRP 21.11 ROK 40 35 50 good build, projectable, arm strength project arm, distance from majors, relief upside
73 Travis Taijeron LF/RF 29.02 AAA 40 40 45 good career power production, physical build age, defensive upside, swing and miss concern
74 Jacob Scavuzzo LF 24.02 AAA 40 40 45 solid tool profile, still a chance for upside game going backward, struggling hit tool
75 Max Gamboa RHRP 22.04 ROK 40 35 50 excellent arm strength, + to ++ velo, good frame production does not match stuff, incon. SL
76 Dean Kremer RHRP 22.03 HiA 40 40 45 decent athleticism and frame, K production, sink on FB was hit hard in HiA. Homer prone, no + pitch
77 Moises Perez 2B 20.08 LoA 40 40 45 loose athlete, some feel for hit offensive ceiling, lower on defensive spectrum
78 Isaac Anderson RHSP/RP 24.07 HiA 40 40 45 versatile arm, some SNK on FB, avg SL no plus or above avg tool, low ceiling, taxi arm