The New York Yankees have had a merry-go-round of bad luck at first base this season. Greg Bird entered the season with much hope as the next great first baseman, but injuries have derailed his season. Chris Carter failed not once, but twice manning the position. Tyler Austin returned from the disabled list just in time to injure himself again.
Obviously with a need for depth at the position, the Yankees dealt from a position they are deep at: bullpen arms.
garrett cooper comin to yanks in webb deal. @JeffPassan mentioned 1st— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 13, 2017
So, who switched uniforms?
Tyler Webb, LHP
Webb had a busy offseason. The 26-year-old southpaw was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule V draft. But after spending spring training with his new club, he headed back to the Yankees for another run in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Webb was selected by the Yankees in their big 2013 MLB Draft (you know, the one they snagged that Aaron Judge fellow?). He was chosen in the tenth round out of South Carolina and almost immediately became a staple in Yankees farm bullpens. Webb reached Triple-A by his second season.
The 6-foot-5, 230 pound left-hander finally made his big league debut this season. He made seven appearances, striking out five and walking four over six innings. Not much to get excited about, but also too small a sample size to deem terrible. Webb will apparently begin in Colorado Springs, but should be up with the big club at some point soon.
Our friends at Pinstriped Prospects detail Webb’s stuff as a three-pitch arsenal. He has a low-90s fastball with what they feel is an above average slider and curveball.
Garrett Cooper, 1B
Like Webb, Cooper is now 26 years of age. He is enjoying a breakout season for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Cooper is enormous, standing at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds. This season, he finally seems to be tapping into his power. He was the Brewers sixth-round draft choice in 2013 out of Auburn, and has worked his way up the ladder as a solid, contact-hitting first baseman.
Most Yankees fans are already enamored by Cooper’s 2017 numbers, and rightfully so. He is slashing .366/.428/.652 with an astounding 1.080 OPS. His batting average is tops in the Pacific Coast League, and he has added 17 home runs and 82 RBI as well.
But buyer beware.
Cooper is certainly a nice prospect. He is a contact hitter, who finds his way on base. This is evidenced by his .305 career batting average in the minors as well as an impressive .370 career on base percentage. The .474 career slugging percentage says more, however.
Up to this season, Cooper was much more James Loney offensively than he was Albert Pujols. The PCL is a launching pad, and the Sky Sox home park especially helps. It’s not just home runs that have increased for Cooper, but he has the second most doubles he’s hit in his career with 29, just five less than his career-best mark set last season. He never hit more than nine home runs until this year.
There is nothing wrong with a first baseman who can play solid defense and get on base. Additionally, Cooper has played the outfield in his career, mainly right, so should his bat stick, there are options to get him in the lineup. His power has increased each season, but to put high expectations on Cooper as an everyday power-hitting first baseman may be a bit unfair, no matter how enticing his ridiculous .287 ISO may be.
The Yankees are not getting the next Mark Teixeira here, however. They are getting a relatively safe insurance policy at first base. He doesn’t strike out a lot (just 48 times in 320 plate appearances) and has shown patience at the plate (walking 10.3 percent of the time). Cooper may not be the answer at first base, but he could be a nice stop gap from which the Yankees can get production.