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An AFL PITCHf/x profile of Zach Cooper

Work in progress.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Fall League is a tool for teams to get a few of their minor league players some extra work. It's usually not full of top prospects, nothing is on the line in its games, and the stats are essentially meaningless. One thing that the AFL does have going for it, though, are PITCHf/x cameras.

When a prospect goes to the AFL, we fans get a window into what his stuff looks like that we normally wouldn't for minor league pitchers. So far I've profiled:

The final pitcher that the Rays sent to the Arizona Fall League in 2014 was Zach Cooper.

Zach Cooper AFL 2014
Clicking on the image will enlarge it, or you can view an interactive version that will let you filter by pitch types and give information on each individual pitch. The classifications are my own.

Here are the averages:

Pitch Velocity Horizontal Run Vertical Rise
FA 92.5 -5.7 10.2
FC 90.1 -3.6 10.4
CH 84.1 -5.5 6.1
SL 82.7 1 2.4

I decided to break off some of the fastballs into a separate grouping of cutters, because those fastballs with less horizontal run also tended to be slower. There's a decent trance he's not actually using a different group, and rather that the differences I've seized on our just random variation.

For the other pitchers in this series, I've identified a major league pitcher with similar raw stuff, in order to supply an image for minor league guys who we don't normally get to see. I'm not going to do that with Cooper because (a) there's not really a lot that's interesting about these averages and (b) I don't think that they tell us much about Zach Cooper the possible future major league player—he's clearly a work-in-progress now. Consider:

  • There's a six inch difference between his changeup that ran the most and his changeup that ran the least.
  • Or maybe those two changeups near the middle are sliders, in which case there's a six inch difference between his biggest and smallest slider.
  • With that in mind, how certain are we that he's cutting his fastball purposefully, and not just having it do one thing one time, and another the next?
So here's the point. I wouldn't call what Zach Cooper flashed in the AFL "major-league stuff," but the Rays obviously think there's something worth pursuing there, or they wouldn't send him to Arizona for the extra work. Here's what Baseball America had to say about him when he was drafted in the fifteenth round back in 2012:
A successful starter at Central Michigan since midway through his sophomore season in 2010, Cooper profiles as a reliever in pro ball. He's just 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds and lacks the command to stick in a pro rotation, but he has the stuff to be a weapon out of the bullpen. He can maintain a 91-93 mph fastball deep into games and has hit 95 in the past, so his velocity figures to increase in shorter stints. He flashed a wipeout slider in the past but it's more of an average pitch now, occasionally flattening out.
At 83 mph, that doesn't look like a wipeout slider right now, but if Cooper were to maintain three inches of run on it, like he flashed on a few of these pitches, then maybe it could be.

I publish this thoroughly uninteresting scouting report for completeness sake, so that the next time we hear news about Zach Cooper we have some previous information to reference, but also as a warning. These are prospects. They're working on becoming major league players, but they're not there yet. Expect their velocity, their movement, their command, and their approach to change. Don't write anyone off because of what I've said here.

The AFL gives us some fun data to play with, but not very much.

I can't wait to hear who the Rays send next year.