TCN 2015 Cardinals Prospect #7: Tim Cooney

How might a top pitching prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system get lost in the shuffle?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: Wake Forest University

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
12 LHS 12,19,90 6-3 195 L L 2012 3rd

Selected 2014 stats

Mem 14 6 3.47 4.93 26 25 0 158.0 158 61 21 47 119 0.263 1.02 0.292

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (8): During the community vote, Blingboy mentioned that Tim Cooney might not have to be handled as delicately as some other recent rookie starters because of his 158 innings pitched in 2014. Blingboy does not see Cooney as being especially exciting, but was happy that his control problems from earlier this year improved.

SoonerinNC was not very impressed with Cooney when he saw him pitch. He doesn't believe Cooney holds the same upside as Lance Lynn, despite Cooney getting some left-handed Lynn comparisons thrown his way by nbr1hawkeye.

Blingboy says he values upside as much as the next guy but since Cooney was not that dominant this year at Memphis, it kept Cooney from getting his vote. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: Cooney was 12th in TCN’s prospect rankings last winter and pitched his way into the top 10 with a historical winning season for Memphis, setting a new club record for wins in a single season with 14.

The lefty was one of the more effective pitchers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, as he boasted a 3.47 ERA that was fourth-best for any PCL starter. He struck out 119 batters, walked 47, and compiled a 1.30 WHIP in 158 innings pitched.

In 2014, we learned that Cooney is one of those good/bad kind of pitchers. If his stuff is playing that night and the match-up is favorable, he can be dominant. When it’s not, he can be beaten up pretty badly at times. That is what holds his ceiling back from being an impact starter at the next level, but he still has the chance to be a quality back-end starter who can eat innings and limit damage.

Cooney does not overpower anyone, but has plus command and an ability to change speeds with his four pitches. They include a high 80s-to-low 90s fastball, his best secondary pitch - a change-up that he can rely on in any count - and two breaking pitches that somewhat lag behind, a curve and a slider. The use of both will be limited at the highest level but offer a different look in odd counts.

The lack of a dependable breaking pitch is limiting him in trying to put away left-handed hitters and making him use his change-up more often, resulting in more home runs allowed. Holding big flies to a minimum will be a key if Cooney is ever going to be a big-league starter every fifth day.

The former Wake Forest lefty should be back at Memphis next year and hopefully will replicate the same success he had in his first season - if not do better. If healthy, Cooney could have an opportunity if an opening in the big-league rotation occurs due to injury or he could take a long-man role.

Brian Walton (6): If this makes sense, I am considerably higher on Cooney than I am about his near-term opportunity in St. Louis.

The lefty got off to a very fast start in 2014 and after a bumpy period, improved as the season went on. Cooney went 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA over five April starts at Memphis. In his debut period at the Triple-A level, he was named the Cardinals organization’s Player of the Month. He was then one out away from a no-hitter in a nationally-televised game at the end of May, when he was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week.

Cooney registered his best month in July, with four starts that resulted in a 3-0 record and 1.95 ERA and was again named the organization’s Pitcher of the Month. All-told, in eight post all-star break starts, Cooney was 5-1 with an ERA of 2.85 while dramatically improving his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 4.8, up from 2.1 in the first half.

On one hand, because of those results and the fact he is so close to the Majors, I rank Cooney sixth ahead of 2014 draftees Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver.

On the other hand, a pair of young arms, one lefty and one righty in Rob Kaminsky and Alex Reyes, will be coming up quickly behind. In another 12-18 months, they could be knocking on the Triple-A door, as well.

Ahead with St. Louis, there are at least eight starters – incumbents Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha – along with final-spot combatants Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales and wild-card Jaime Garcia. Plus there is another more experienced 40-man roster left-handed starter blocking the road in Tyler Lyons, also looking for any big-league opening.

Sure, the rotation has health questions, but at first blush, four of the eight would seemingly have to go down before Cooney would receive even a chance to start for St. Louis. That appears to be a tall order, so let’s consider the next best thing, the bullpen.

Usually the team carries just two left-handed relievers, but perhaps because of the many competitors, they will carry three. Even if Gonzales upsets favored Martinez for the fifth spot in the rotation or is sent down to Memphis to start, Cooney could be at least fifth in line for one of the left-handed pen spots with St. Louis, after Randy Choate, Sam Freeman, Kevin Siegrist and Nick Greenwood. He could be sixth to eighth depending on Gonzales and Lyons, along with the possibility of Garcia shifting to the pen if healthy.

Yes, Cooney could pass one or more of them, but they all have MLB time and he isn’t even yet on the 40-man roster. Even entering the relief discussion assumes he can successfully adapt to that role, something he has not been asked to do as a professional to date.

In other words, no matter how good Cooney pitches, and he has been pretty good, his immediate opportunities to debut with St. Louis appear pretty slim and sticking there even less likely. So, even though I like Cooney the pitcher, I like his 2015 chances with the Cardinals a whole lot less.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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