Name: Ryan Cook
Height/Weight: 6'3''/200 pounds
How Acquired: Traded along with Jarrod Parker and Collin Cowgill for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow on December 9, 2011. Originally drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 27th round in 2008.
It will be a USC reunion party at the A's major league spring training camp this February. Three members of the 2008 squad – Grant Green, Tom Milone and Ryan Cook – will be competing for a chance to make the A's 2012 Opening Day roster. Of the three, only Green was a member of the A's organization before this off-season. Both Cook and Milone were acquired by Oakland in separate trades in December. Cook and Milone were selected in the 2008 draft, while Green was the A's number one pick in 2009.
Cook, who made his major league debut last season with Arizona, had to fight his way through the minor leagues. A 27th round pick, Cook pitched at every level of the minor leagues for the Diamondbacks, except for the Rookie League. Despite hitting every rung of the D-Backs' system, Cook arrived in the big leagues during his fourth professional season.
Cook began his professional career as a starter, making seven starts for short-season Yakima, 25 starts for Low-A South Bend and 24 starts for High-A Visalia, Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno during his first three professional seasons. He had moderate success as a starter in A-ball, but never posted great strike-out-to-innings pitched ratios. Once he hit Double-A and Triple-A, his strike-out totals fell even further and his walk ratios creeped up.
That all changed when Cook moved to a relief role in 2011. He made 34 relief appearances for Mobile to start the year and struck-out 50 while walking only 14 in 44 innings pitched. He also allowed opposing batters to hit only .179 against him and he gave-up only two homeruns. On the strength of those numbers, Cook was called up to the big leagues by Arizona in late July directly from Double-A.
The right-hander would make four appearances for Arizona before being sent back down to the minors, this time to Triple-A. He struggled in his first taste of major league baseball, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings pitched. Cook was sent back to Triple-A and he would make 14 appearances for the Reno Aces in July and August, posting a 2.12 ERA with 12 strike-outs and eight walks in 17 innings pitched. For both Mobile and Reno, Cook served as a closer, saving 19 games between the two teams.
Cook would get another crack at the big leagues with the D-Backs in September. He appeared in eight games for the NL West champs down-the-stretch and showed improvement over his first big league stint. He allowed two runs on four hits in six innings and he struck-out six, although he did walk five.
Cook is a member of the A's 40-man roster – having been added to the D-Backs' 40-man roster last season – and will be attending his first big league spring training camp this February.
Cook's strongest attribute as a pitcher is his arm strength, something that he was able to take full advantage of with his move to the bullpen. As a starter, he sat in the high-80s to low-90s, topping the radar gun at 93 MPH. In short-inning situations as a reliever, Cook's fastball jumped into the 95-98 MPH range and he was even clocked in the triple digits on occasion.
Cook's secondary stuff is also hard, for the most part. He features a split-fingered fastball and a slider, both of which range in the mid-80s to low-90s. The split-finger is Cook's most effective secondary offering, although he does have success with the slider at times. He does have a tendency to leave the slider up in the strike-zone. His command wasn't always sharp as a starter, but he did improve as a reliever, although he still has continued work to do in that area.
Like so many of the pitchers the A's covet, Cook has been a groundball pitcher throughout his career. He has allowed 16 homeruns in 369 minor league innings and he didn't allow a homerun in his 12 major league innings. Cook pitched well against right-handers and left-handers last season, but he was particularly stifling versus right-handers.
In some ways, Cook has similar profile to fellow A's relief pitcher Andrew Carignan, although Cook has better command and not quite as much swing-and-miss to his game. He is also significantly bigger than Carignan and hasn't had Carignan's injury history.
Despite a career in the starting rotation, Cook took well to the bullpen last season and thrived in late-innings situations. His command may never be good enough to be a major league closer, but he could have a future as an eighth-inning set-up man or right-handed relief specialist.
Cook, who will turn 25 midway through the 2012 season, will compete this spring for a spot in the A's bullpen. If Oakland trades one or two more of their veteran relievers before the start of spring, Cook will almost assuredly start the year in the Oakland ‘pen. Cook joins an ever-expanding group of hard-throwing relievers on the A's 40-man roster, a group that could give Oakland a Detroit-like power bullpen in a year or two.