Tim Cooney (© Caylor Arnold / USA TODAY Sports Images)

2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Tim Cooney

Tim Cooney offers the Indians not only potential left-handed relief depth, but perhaps some starting pitching depth as well. The IBI's Jake Dungan continues his preview capsule series with a look at one of the Tribe's offseason waiver claims.

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Tim Cooney, LHP

Throws: Left -- Bats: Left -- Entering his age-26 season -- Contract: Pre-arbitration (Eligible for arbitration in 2020)

2016 In Review: Tim Cooney missed all of the 2016 season with the Cardinals after initially feeling discomfort in his shoulder during spring training and was shut down for the first half of the campaign. In July, he underwent surgery to clear out calcium buildup in his shoulder that kept him on the shelf for the remainder of the season. The former third-round pick made his big league debut in 2015 going 1-0 with a 3.16 ERA in six starts for the Red Birds. In four minor league seasons, Cooney has posted a 33-26 record with a 3.35 ERA in 79 games (76 starts). During the offseason, the Indians claimed the left-hander off waivers from St. Louis and he is expected to be unrestricted during spring training and ready for the upcoming season. While he has worked as a starter primarily throughout his pro career, the Indians also view Cooney as another potential left-handed addition to their bullpen.

Versus Right-handers: 2015 was the first time Cooney put together dominant splits against both right and left-handed hitters posting a .207/.256/.366 slash line against right-handers and a .208/.276/.281 line against lefties in 20 games between Triple-A Memphis and St. Louis. Over his career, however, those numbers have been a bit more imbalanced, although his splits against right-handed batters prior to 2015 have remained fairly consistent with a batting average around .270 with OPS marks between .660 and .780. In the big leagues in 2015, Cooney actually fared much batter against right-handers with an opposing .223 average and .689 OPS in, albeit a small sample size of 104 plate appearances.

Versus Left-handers: Outside of 2013, Cooney has consistently put up better numbers against southpaws with 2015 being his best showing at .208 with a .557 OPS between Triple-A and the majors. 2014 reaped similar results with a .219 average and .583 OPS against left-handed hitters with Memphis. The strikeout-to-walk ratios have been roughly the same against both right and left-handed batters throughout his career. If he is eventually moved to the bullpen full time, however, it'll be interesting to see if that changes and if his left-handed splits of the last two years continue as well as translate to the major league level. While southpaws logged only 26 plate appearances during Cooney's major league stint in 2015, they still batted .318 with a .764 OPS in a reversal of his minor league trend.

Pitch Mix: Cooney has received positive reports for his three primary pitches, which would be his fastball, curveball and changeup in the past. Since then, he has added a slider and also played around with some different variations of his fastball (two-seam, cutter) as he did in the majors in 2015. While his fastball came in below average during that stint with the Cardinals at -4.0 runs above average, all his secondary pitches rated in plus territory between 1.1 and 2.9 runs above average, according to PITCHf/x. While the Pennsylvania native won't strike out a ton of batters, his low walk rate can help limit traffic on the base paths. Cooney's also not a hard-thrower with his fastball only topping out in the low 90s, but thanks to his feel for his breaking pitches and his mound presence, he can make it work.

Fantasy Impact: The general consensus since the Indians picked up Cooney has been that he would be viewed as an option for the bullpen. With the rotation pretty much set in stone, a spot or two available in the bullpen and the fact that Cooney is left-handed, that would make the most sense at the moment. At the same time, he was drafted as a starter and has been brought up as a starter, save three relief appearances during his minor league career. If the 26-year-old does not make the team coming out of the bullpen this spring, he does have one minor league option remaining and can be sent down to Columbus, where the Indians may opt to stretch him out as a starter again. Fangraphs has the left-hander making eight major league appearances this season, all starts, and going 3-3 with a 4.33 ERA. How the organization uses him this spring and what role they choose for him either in Cleveland or Columbus will be the main things to keep an eye on with Cooney over the next few months,

Summary: As a former third-round pick and a guy who is coming off back-to-back solid seasons before his shoulder issue cropped up last year, Tim Cooney is a nice flier pickup for the Indians to, at the very least, continue to bolster their pitching depth both in the rotation and the bullpen. While he may not have massive upside, he has already shown what he can do having already had success at the big league level. Plus, with one option remaining, the Tribe can keep him within the organization beyond spring training if he doesn't make the starting roster and have him available for when his services are needed. If they do opt to move him to a relief pitching role full time, the response in his pitching will be interesting to watch as many former starters have found another level to their game after switching roles. And with Boone Logan only in the fold short-term, another southpaw is going to have to step up soon.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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