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Future Redbirds Top 25 Prospects for 2015: #6 - Tim Cooney

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The former Wake Forest star's command slipped a little in 2014 and some bad luck on the home run front didn't help either. Command, durability, and pitchability are the calling cards here, a profile common among a lot of left handed starters in the high minors.

Tim Cooney pitching in Spring Training 2015
Tim Cooney pitching in Spring Training 2015
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired: 2012 Draft (3rd Round, #117), Wake Forest

Birthday: 12/19/1990

Age: 24

Minor League Stops in 2014: Memphis (AAA)

2014 Totals:

IP

ERA

FIP

K%

BB%

GB%

OFB%

HR/FB%

158 3.47 4.43 17.9 7.1 44 25.7% 16.7%

F-R Grades:

(You can find the 20/80 grading primer here)

Fastball

Changeup

Curveball

Command

Pitchability

45/50 60 50 60 55/65

For a pitcher with such solid peripheral skills, Tim Cooney is surprisingly inconsistent from start to start. This isn't just a trait from 2014 but one he exhibited in his excellent 2013 season as well. I have a theory on why that is, but we'll get to that in a minute.

If you're looking for elite stuff, you'll not find it here. What you will find is a durable lefty with excellent command, who understands the value of getting ahead in the count (although he struggled with this a bit in 2014), and knows how to keep hitters off balance. Cooney gets a few more swings and misses than one would think given his lack of a true out pitch and a fastball that doesn't really blow anyone away.

Consistent and repeatable mechanics, good balance, and a release point that is nearly identical for every pitch in the arsenal. That's what you want to see from a pitcher who profiles as an innings eater more than a top-of-the-rotation type. Cooney's also very good at mixing things up out of the stretch as well and controls the running game very well over the course of his career.

Kiley McDaniel spoke with a couple of people within the organization and they had this to say:

Cards execs call Cooney a poor man’s Marco Gonzalez, as the stuff is pretty similar, but there isn’t quite as much impact.

Hard to disagree with that assessment. Marco throws a bit harder, has a plus changeup and an above average curveball and also features the above average command and pitchability scores. The plus changeup really sets Gonzales apart from Cooney, but the latter pitcher has found plenty of ways to work around the lack of elite offerings in his arsenal.

Getting back to that theory I mentioned earlier: The lack of any elite offering that Cooney can lean on when he doesn't have his best stuff makes him susceptible during those outings when his command is a little off or his fastball just doesn't have it's best pop. When he's got his best stuff, he can dominate a really good lineup (like his 1 hit shutout against a talent-stacked Iowa Cubs squad) but when it's not there, Cooney can get hit pretty hard. I watched a couple of starts where he struggled last season, and when he's getting hit hard, he tends to try and nibble further and further to the edges of the plate which does him no favors: It leads to more walks and ever more baserunners.

In 2013 at AA Springfield, Cooney had zero starts in which he issued more than 2 bases on balls. In 2014, he had 6 such starts, including two horrible outings in which he walked 5 batsmen. That's a disturbing trend for a command and control pitcher: If the difference from AA to AAA is that stark, one can imagine how much more difficult MLB is going to be.

Cooney made a few comments in his interview with VEB's Joe Schwarz about trying to be too fine with his command at times in 2014, leading to an uptick in his walk rate, so perhaps he can build on his success last season and regain the confidence he had in his repertoire and ability at the lower levels of the minors. Given that he'll be Rule V eligible at the end of the season with a 40 man roster that's currently loaded with talent, the organization might have a few tough decisions to make in November. Let's hope Cooney adds to that list with a great 2015.

2015 Outlook:

Cooney has topped 150 innings in each of the last two seasons, which is basically the equivalent of a full season in the minor leagues for a starting pitcher.  Becoming more consistent from start to start will be key, as that will allow him to work into the 6th or 7th inning in most starts and make it clear that he's ready for a trial in a big league rotation in 2016. Between Cooney, Tyler Lyons, and Marco Gonzales, the Cardinals have a solid trio of left handed starters at AAA Memphis that can be called up to fill into the rotation at a moment's notice if needed.

Overall Grade: B