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
|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|