There is an old saying: “If you want to hide the treasure, put it in plain sight. Then no one will see it. All the secrets of the world worth hiding are in plain sight.”
Well for fantasy baseball managers, Marlins first baseman Garrett Cooper is a treasure hiding in plain sight. Over the past three years, Cooper has improved his ISO, K%, launch angle, barrel%, and HR/FB. He’s hitting more barrels while striking out less and improving his batting average.
The issue is he hit just six home runs last year which puts him well outside the top 15 first basemen. He played half his games at first base and the other half at DH last year and with Jesus Aguilar splitting with him (seemingly just about every other game). One would hope that the power numbers were more robust for their fantasy 1B/DH player. Thus he falls down the ranks. In our recent Fake Teams 1B rankings, he fell all the way to 39th and thus outside the top 30 1B. A giant concern could be the status of DH in the National League as that the removal of that would cut into his playing time.
All this being said, I am more bullish than most on Garrett Cooper’s 2021 fantasy prospects and here is why:
Batting Average & HR/PA over last three years
- 2018: .212 AVG; 0%
- 2019: .281 AVG; 3.56%
- 2020: .283 AVG (good enough for top among 1B); 4.51%
The steady improvement is terrific to see and shows promise for 2021 being a serious breakout year.
Hitting stats among 1B last year (min. 50 PA)
- 12th in OBP (.353)
- 16th in wOBA (.365)
- 18th in SLG (.500)
- 24th in ISO (.217)
Cooper had the 31st most HR, 33rd most RBI, 30th most runs, while playing the 44th most games. His percentages are all solid, he’s simply being held back by the amount of time he played last year.
According to Baseball Savant
- His Brls/PA% of 6.8% was 17th among qualified 1B
- Average HR distance of 419 was 2nd among qualified 1B (this is likely due to him pulling the ball 9% more than normal last year)
- His max HR of 455 yards was 4th among qualified 1B last year
- His average exit velocity of 90.1 MPH was 15th among 1B
Cooper can crush the ball fast and far when he gets a bat on it.
Breaking down his swing
I can recognize that there’s plenty Cooper still has to work on in terms of his swing. Over the last three years, his O-Swing% (34), Z-Swing% (60), and overall Swing% (45) are all below average and didn’t show marked improvement in 2020. However, his contact rates have steadily improved in that same period of time.
His O-Contact% of 65.3% over the last three years is better than league average and he made big strides in both his Z-Contact% and Total Contact% in 2020.
Cooper swings at more than he should and he makes contact on less than he should, but he has improved sizably on making not only contact but quality contact.
He’s proven he can crush the ball, he’s shown it doesn’t affect his batting average, he’s shown his contact is improving, and that he can get on base. The key with Cooper is he just needs more playing time. He was held out of almost half of games last season due to COVID-19 (out a month) followed by a quad issue (out a few games).
Garrett Cooper is NOT a top 1B right now, but I could see him building into one over the next two years. He’s clearly working on his game and improving. He’s 29 and has just four seasons and 168 games at MLB level to his name. He can still adjust and improve, which is what we are seeing. For that reason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sneak into top-15 1B territory this year. Plus, if the Marlins don’t re-sign Jesus Aguilar, that opens up a ton of time for Cooper.
Whether you want to bet on his breakout this year or snag him in dynasty leagues for what seems a high-potential future, Garrett Cooper is worth adding to your fantasy team.