The Yankees took a step toward replenishing their first base depth Thursday.
The team announced it acquired Garrett Cooper from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for lefty reliever Tyler Webb. Cooper was sent to SWB, but had yet to report before the team’s game against Buffalo on Thursday.
The 26-year-old Cooper was a sixth-round pick in 2013 out of Auburn. He’s a career .305 hitter in the minors, but is enjoying his best season yet. Cooper batted .366 with a .428 on-base percentage and a .652 slugging percentage with Colorado Springs — though he was playing in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League in one of its most hitter friendly parks. In 75 games, he has 102 hits, 29 doubles, 17 home runs and 82 RBIs. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound righty walked 33 times and struck out just 48 times.
Webb was a member of the Yankees organization since they selected him in the 10th round of the 2013 draft. He pitched parts of the last four seasons with the RailRiders, and was picked by the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft before the season, only to be returned to the Yankees on April 1. Webb was 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA and 47 strikeouts against three walks in 33.1 innings with SWB this year. He was well liked and respected in the RailRiders clubhouse — after he was promoted to the big leagues for the first time June 22, they roped off his locker and kept it untouched until one of the last games before the All-Star Break.
FIRST (BASE) THINGS FIRST
This move doesn’t necessarily move the needle on the Yankees’ future first base plans. After Greg Bird and Tyler Austin were injured and Chris Carter was released, the depth at the position looked pretty depleted. Essentially, it was Ji-Man Choi, then some combination of Austin Romine/Matt Holliday/Rob Refsnyder as the backup. Cito Culver, a shortstop by trade — and a great one, at that — was the RailRiders starting first baseman before the break since Mike Ford went down with a hamstring. The Yankees need another first baseman in the upper levels of the minors.
It’s tough to gauge how good of a season Cooper is having because of the PCL. Its hitters almost always put up better numbers than their IL counterparts.
But looking a bit deeper into Cooper’s numbers could at least provide a picture of the type of hitter he is. This year, he’s walking more than he usually does (10.3 BB%) and striking out less (15.0 K%). His groundball rates are way down (44.1%) and his flyball (37.1%) and line drive (18.8%) rates are up. He’s also using the whole field more than he has in the past — 38.4% pull percentage, 30% to center, 31.7% to the opposite field. He had 27 home runs in four seasons coming into this year, and has 17 in 75 games this year. He’s been a bit better against righties (.371/.431/.665) than lefties (.345/.415/.603).
Before this season, Cooper’s best offensive year came in 2015 at High-A Brevard County in the Florida State League, a league where pitchers usually fare better than hitters. Cooper slashed .292/.356/.436 as a 24-year-old with the Manatees. He was better against righties (.807 OPS) than lefties (.750 OPS) that year, too.
Let’s go to the video
Here’s a couple highlights from Cooper’s season. One thing you’ll notice: though he’s 6-6, Cooper crouches down in his stance.
7/7/17 — Cooper belts two-run shot
6/18/17 — Cooper doubles in a run
6/14/17 — Cooper homers to left
5/11/17 — Cooper’s grand slam to center