It’s a new year, so what better way to ring it in with a new prospect on our Top 50 Prospects countdown? A former first-round draft pick comes in at #34…
First Baseman / 23 years old / 6′0″ 210 lbs
Born: February 12th, 1987 in Stockton, CA
Bats: Left Throws: Left
High School Team: Tokay Tigers
College Team: University of California Golden Bears
Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round (17th overall) of the 2008 First-Year-Player Draft
Jersey Number: #9 for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats
- Hobbies include football and video games, and the Oakland Athletics are his favorite team
- Models his game after Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies
- Had a .529 batting average and .992 OPS in his final three years of high school
- Member of the USA Junior National Team in 2004
- Named a high school All-American and all-state honoree by Baseball America and Louisville Slugger in 2005
- Was also named San Joaquin Athletic Association MVP and Player of the Year in 2005
- Initially started his post-secondary education at Cal State Fullerton, where he majored in business administration
- Hit .305/.337/.404 in 55 games with the Fullerton Titans in 2006
- Led all players in the 2006 College World Series with a .533 average and was named to the All-Tournament team
- In addition to playing first base, he pitched 2 shutout innings for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2006
- Transferred to the University of California for the 2007-2008 seasons, where he majored in American studies
- Tied for 1st in games played (132)
- 2nd in at-bats (498), doubles (30), RBI (78), and total bases (220)
- 3rd in hits (128) and home runs (20)
- 5th in runs (59), triples (1), and walks (52)
- A video of him pulling a home run to right field can be found here
- A video of him in batting practice while with the Auburn Doubledays can be found here
- A video of him hitting an opposite field home run in college can be found here
Extra Information and previous experience:
After transferring to the University of California as a standout from Cal State Fullerton at the end of the 2006 season, David Cooper‘s baseball career really started to blossom. He was undeniably the most valuable player on the Golden Bears roster from 2007-2008, where he hit an unbelievable .370/.449/.655 slash line in 111 games.
Cooper’s .382 batting average in 2007 earned him the Robert A. Roos Award for being Cal’s top hitter, and his batting average was 3rd best in the entire Pac-10 conference. His 2007 season made him a player of the year candidate and made him a 2007 All-Pac-10 performer.
Cooper led his Cal Bears team in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, multiple hit games, and multiple RBI games in both 2007 and 2008. With Cooper’s track record, especially his exceptional college numbers, it was hard to criticize then-Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi for making David Cooper the Blue Jays’ first-round draft pick in 2008. Cooper signed almost instantly for a $1.500,000 signing bonus, and reported immediately to the Auburn Doubledays of the New York-Penn League.
Looking more in depth revealed that Cooper’s only asset is his bat, where his ability stems from strong hands and forearms and he has excellent hand-eye coordination more than pure bat speed. There was a divide among scouts that he would be more susceptible in professional ball because of that, or that his pure swing would let him catch up to any fastball. Baseball America pointed out that he has a “polished, patient approach” at the plate and “absolutely mashes” mistakes to all parts of the park.
Cooper initially silenced his critics in 2008, where his .341 average and .963 OPS in 21 games with the Auburn Doubledays earned him a promotion to Class A Lansing during the season. It was more of the same there, where his .354 average and .936 OPS in only 24 games with Lansing earned him yet another promotion to Hi-A Dunedin. He ended up finishing the 2008 season with Dunedin, and logged a .304/.373.435 line in 24 games.
Jays fans seemed to think they had something really special on their hands in Cooper, and Baseball America even ranked him as the Jays’ 5th best prospect after the 2008 season. Cooper earned praise for his phenomenal barrel awareness, sweet swing, and ability to hit for average and power once he incorporates his full body into his swing more. Baseball America predicted that, because he was such a below-average athlete, runner, and defender, Cooper’s bat would have to get him to the Majors.
The Jays were so high on Cooper that they promoted him to Double-A New Hampshire to start the 2009 season. This is where his all-bat skill set caught up to him, and his statistics plummeted. He managed a .258/.340/.389 line, with 10 home runs and 66 RBI. It was his first full season playing professional ball, and he was still only 22-years-old. He made adjustments to his swing as the season went on and finished strong, where, despite his struggles, Baseball America still ranked him as the Jays’ #4 prospect after the 2009 season. BA still considered Cooper as the best hitting prospect in the Jays’ Minor League system, and assumed that he would rebound from 2009 and arrive at Triple-A Las Vegas at some point in 2010.
With the 2010 season having come and gone, David Cooper has still not seen any Triple-A action. His subpar athleticism, running, defense, and ability to hit southpaws continued, where he finished the season with a .257/.327/.442 slash line. He continued to make adjustments defensively and to his swing, but his first half of the season was atrocious.
He started to pick things up after the All-Star break though, with a .317 average and .927 OPS in July, .286 average and .849 OPS in August, and he finished the season on an 11-game hitting streak (15-for-40, .375). His power numbers increased, with 20 home runs and 78 RBI, and his 74 strikeouts on the season were 18 less than the year before.
Expected 2011 Team: Triple-A Las Vegas
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Designated Hitter
Cooper will still be only 24-years-old come Opening Day, but some could consider his #34 ranking on this list as generous. He certainly benefited the most from Brett Wallace‘s departure from the Blue Jays organization, as now there is a gaping hole at Triple-A Las Vegas which he can fill in 2011.
Cooper will have an immense amount of pressure on him to step-up and perform in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League next season, but hopefully he can take his strong finish to the 2010 season and continue his success in 2011 with a fresh start at Triple-A Las Vegas.