In 2020, Garrett Cooper proved once again how valuable he can be for the Marlins. Despite playing in only 34 games, he was among the best hitters on the team in 2020.
Take a look at the Marlins’ numbers and you will find Cooper near the top of every offensive cateogry. He was fifth in hits (34), third in doubles (8), fourth in home runs (6), third in runs batted in (20), fifth in scored runs, and second in OPS (.853), though he didn’t accumulate enough plate appearances to qualify for league-wide leaderboards.
Cooper, who shared 1B/DH duties with Jesús Aguilar, just made the Marlins better when he was in the lineup. In fact, the Fish lost only one of the six games where the 29-year-old hit a home run (5-1) and won seven of the 10 in which he drove in at least a run.
Encouraging was Cooper’s continued reduction in his strikeout (31.6% in 2018, 26.1% in 2019, and 23.3% in 2020) and his whiff rate (35.1% in 2018, 23.4% in 2019, and 22.2% in 2020). At the same time, he has gradualy become a more selective hitter at the plate, with his swing percentage going from 48.4% in 2019 to 40.4% this year.
Moreover, Cooper has steadily raised his average exit velocity since 2018 (86.8 MPH, 89.1 MPH, and 90.1 MPH in his three Marlins seasons). He made quality contact so often that his .304 expected batting average is among the league’s best, according to Baseball Savant.
- Cooper feasted upon left-handed pitching—.350/.395/.775, with four home runs and 14 runs batted in.
- He was also very productive with runners in scoring position—.333/.357/.667 (9-for-27).
- According to his batted ball profile on Baseball Savant, he’s cut down his ground ball rate (now at 47.2%) and has raised his line-drive tendencies (33.7%). That’s important for a player that won’t overwhelm anybody with his speed.
High Points: Hitting a three-run shot against the Yankees on September 25 that led the Marlins to their final regular season win; taking Yu Darvish deep on a solo jack in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series on October 2.
There are lots of reasons to believe Garrett Cooper hasn’t reached his ceiling yet. His year-by-year progression assures a full-season of play could produce stellar results.
For Cooper, it’d be so helpful if the National League is DH’d again. This could allot manager Don Mattingly the options of moving him around between first base, the DH role, and even right field, a position that is still up for grabs. Despite the small-sample size in 2020, Cooper’s on field production with Miami merits every day at-bats, and the Marlins should be able to accommodate him if those precious designated hitter reps are universally available.
Whether they're deserved or so, the durability concerns about Cooper will continue to linger until he proves capable of avoiding injuries for an extended period. He has played in 100+ games only once (2019). The opportunity will be there for him to establish new season-high numbers in games, plate appearances, and at-bats, where the team will get a better picture of Cooper in their longterm plans.