Garrett Cooper earned an All-Star selection in 2022, but it would be a stretch to say that the Miami Marlins have definitively found their guy at first base.
Cooper was extremely hot at the plate in the first half of the season, specifically in June when he hit .378. His overall batting average was right around .300 in early July at the time of his selection to the National League All-Star roster as an injury replacement.
It meant a lot to Cooper to be involved in the All-Star Game, especially because his fellow players were the ones who gave him the votes to make it as a reserve and because it was played at Dodger Stadium, not far from where he grew up. Cooper struck out in both of his ASG at-bats.
The second half of the season was a rollercoaster for Cooper. He did not have any multi-hit games from early July through early September, and his name came up in trade rumors during the middle of that slump. He improved at the very end of the year before suffering a left fifth metacarpal fracture on a hit by pitch.
Cooper set a new career high with 119 games played, split pretty evenly between first base and DH. He slashed .261/.337/.415/.752 with 9 HR/50 RBI. He racked up 33 doubles after having only 40 in the majors from 2018-2022. One of the strongest guys on the Marlins roster, Cooper made a choice to focus on using the whole field over power hitting. His slugging percentage of .415 was the lowest of his career in any season of significant playing time (min. 50 PA).
The Marlins attempted to improve at first base this past winter, or at least bring in somebody to split time with Cooper like Jesús Aguilar did in 2022. They made a competitive offer to free agent José Abreu and showed some interest in Josh Bell and Yuli Gurriel. Instead, they spent their money at other positions and enter 2023 with Cooper projected to be their starter.
Defense will be more important for Cooper moving forward because Jorge Soler is likely to be the team’s main designated hitter. At age 32, his days as an outfielder seem to be over, so mastering all of the skills needed at first base is key.
In 2022, Cooper spent most of his time hitting second and third in the Marlins lineup. I expect him to be hitting a little lower after the additions of Luis Arráez and Jean Segura (and assuming that Jazz Chisholm Jr. is healthier this year).
The hope is that Cooper goes back to being a power threat against left-handed pitching. He homered 13 times vs. lefties in 258 career plate appearances prior to 2022, but only once during his All-Star campaign (101 PA).
Once again, there is a real possibility of Cooper getting traded. He is a pending free agent and the Marlins have younger players with first base experience like Troy Johnston and Jerar Encarnación who are just about ready to be tested in the majors. Even Paul McIntosh could emerge as an internal option at the position.
Barring another unlucky injury, Cooper will have the highest amount of games played in his career, but not all with the Marlins. I expect a midseason trade that brings another solid prospect into the farm system.