Getting to Know New Yankee Garrett Cooper

13 APR 2014: Garrett Cooper of the Manatees during the Florida State League game between the Brevard County Manatees and the Dunedin Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)

The New York Yankees made a trade yesterday, but not for any big names. Instead, general manager Brian Cashman opened their summer dealings by acquiring a new first baseman from the Milwaukee Brewers, in exchange for reliever Tyler Webb.

Getting to Know New Yankee Garrett Cooper

It’s no secret that first base has been a black hole for the Yankees offense this season, but it appears the team is hoping that new Yankee Garrett Cooper will help to end that.

Cooper’s Minor League Career

Cooper was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB draft. In 48 games that year, between Rookie-ball and Class-A, he hit .283, slugged six homers, and had 30 RBI.

In his sophomore season in the minors, Cooper continued to excel at Rookie- and A-ball, but struggled once promoted to High-A. There, he hit just .238 in 53 games and recorded just two home runs.

After such a lackluster showing, the young first baseman was forced to spend 119 of his 128 games in 2015 in High-A yet again. He worked to show the Brewers organization that 2014 was a fluke. He hit .294 and increased his power output. Cooper slugged eight homers and tallied 32 doubles, more than he had in his first two seasons combined.

His brief showing at Double-A was impressive, as Cooper batted over .500 in only nine games. In 92 games for the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers last season, he amassed a .299 batting average and drove in 49 runs. Cooper also got his feet wet at the Triple-A level in the 2016 season, playing in 36 games and batting .276.

Has Cooper Found His Stroke?

This season has been Cooper’s best by far. In 75 games for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, he led the Pacific Coast League in batting average (.366), was in the top 15 in the league in home runs (17), and was second in RBI (82).

Some might attribute Cooper’s offensive surge to his home games being played at altitude in Colorado, but a look at his home and road splits serves to dispel that theory. He did bat an astounding .442, with 10 homers and 55 RBI, at home prior to being dealt to the Yanks. But, Cooper was also batting .300 on the road, with seven home runs and 27 RBI.

He has had the majority of his at-bats against right-handed pitchers, 255 out of his total 320, and has crushed them. He bats .371 and has driven in a vast majority of his runs against righties.

He’s no slouch against left-handed pitching either. In limited at-bats, he has a .345 batting average. Cooper’s homers come at a slightly lower rate against lefties, when using his 2017 statistics for reference, but not by a significant amount.

Is Cooper the New First Baseman of the Future?

While this might seem like quite a jump for a player who has never played in a major league game, it might not actually be too far off base.

Greg Bird, the de facto first baseman of the future, has been plagued by injuries throughout the 2017 season and at other times in his short career. Therefore, this seemingly spontaneous and rather unheralded move by the Yanks has raised some eyebrows among the Bronx faithful.

If Cooper’s productive season continues – a big if – and if Bird remains unable to even reach the playing field – which seems more plausible – then Cooper may just be thrust into the starting first base role.

Of course, Cooper would have to leap frog current Yankees first baseman Ji-Man Choi, but that is not highly unlikely considering his mediocre performance for the team thus far. Choi racked up a sub-.200 batting average in 54 games with the Los Angeles Angels last season, which shows he just might not be ready for the big leagues.

The Underlying Reason for this Deal

The Yankees first base struggles have reverberated throughout the organization this season. Tyler Austin, who was starting at Triple-A, was the first to be thrust up into the big leagues.

Austin was replacing a slumping Chris Carter, who was filling in for the injured Bird. Austin, as he is prone to do, then got injured and is currently on the disabled list.

Choi was then called up to the major leagues to fill his spot. As a result, Mike Ford was called up to Triple-A to fill Choi’s spot. Ford is currently on the seven-day disabled list as well.

The Double-A Trenton Thunder were left with Dante Bichette Jr. to fill his spot. Bichette Jr. is batting just .214 this season. Trenton also added Matt Snyder to their roster, who is also currently on the seven-day disabled list.

First base has been a gaping hole for New York, which has had an impact on the entire organization. The hope is that new Yankee Garrett Cooper will help fill the hole created by both injuries and underwhelming production at the big league level.

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