We’re entering the first full-length season in Marlins history with the universal designated hitter rule in effect. Nobody is in position to benefit more from that change than Garrett Cooper.
Cooper was one of the first players acquired during the Jeter/Sherman era in a trade with the New York Yankees. The Yankees sent him and Caleb Smith to the Marlins in exchange for Michael King and international bonus slot money.
The trade looking back at it now has been a big win for the Marlins. They got a couple productive years out of Caleb Smith until they traded him for Starling Marte. Cooper has been a good hitter for three straight seasons and being a DH moving forward takes away the worry of him providing negative defensive value.
Cooper is currently 31 years old. He has played parts of five big league seasons, but only 239 total games due to various injuries (most recently a torn elbow ligament that required Tommy John surgery). MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $3.0M via arbitration. He has one more year of club control beyond that before qualifying for free agency in 2024.
Assuming that Cooper remains healthy throughout 2022, he could establish himself as a top hitter in the league. He recovered from a slow start to last season and posted a career-high on-base percentage last season, showing home run power to all fields (2021 stats: .284 BA, .380 OBP, .465 SLG, .845 OPS, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 61 H).
Our own Isaac Azout had the chance to talk to Cooper at Marlins spring training camp and here is what he had to say:
Cooper: “when healthy, I feel I’m a top 20 hitter in Major League Baseball”. I’d have to agree.— Isaac Azout (@IsaacAzout) March 14, 2022
Cooper tells Joe Frisaro of Man On 2nd Baseball that he and Jesús Aguilar will alternate starts at DH and first base. “They told me there was no more outfield,” he added.
2022 ATC Projections: .265/.345/.434, 15 HR, 53 RBI, 100 H in 106 G
Despite his undeniable talent, Cooper’s future with the team is clouded at the moment. There’s even an outside shot he gets traded in 2022 to open up playing time for Lewin Díaz. But the far likelier scenario is that he bats in the heart of the Marlins lineup, trusted with making a big impact on their mediocre offense.
Over/Under 119.5 games played for Garrett Cooper?
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