Selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the third round of the 2012 draft out of Wake Forest University, Tim Cooney has quietly moved up the organizational ladder over the past year and is now within striking distance of the major leagues.
Assigned to the New York-Penn League after signing, the left-hander made a strong impression by posting a 3.40 ERA and 43-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55.2 innings spanning 13 games (11 starts).
Given his college background, deep arsenal and advanced feel for pitching, the Cardinals decided to send the 22-year-old directly to High-A Palm Beach this year for his full-season debut. Cooney excelled in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League as expected, registering a 2.75 ERA and 23-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 36 innings.
The organization continued to challenge the southpaw in early May with a promotion to Double-A Springfield, and he responded favorably with a 3.80 ERA and sterling 125-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 starts. However, Cooney’s lack of overpowering stuff was exposed at the more advanced level, as he allowed 132 hits (eight home runs) in 118.1 innings. Overall, opposing hitters batted .281 against him this season.
The 6’3”, 195-pounder features a fastball that sits in the low 90s with late run to the arm side, and he’s adept at attacking hitters on both sides of the plate with the pitch. The left-hander’s cutter represents another advanced offering, registering in the upper 80s with consistent glove-side slice.
Cooney’s changeup is arguably his best secondary offering and tends to play up thanks to the deception in his delivery and fastball-like arm speed. The pitch projects to be at least major league average, and he already demonstrates an impressive feel for using it in relation to the heater.
The 22-year-old also has a curveball in his arsenal, though it’s noticeably his least advanced offering and doesn’t project to be more than a serviceable option at best at the highest level.
While his pure stuff pales in comparison to the other arms to come through the Cardinals’ system in recent years, Cooney does know how to pitch and exploit hitters’ weaknesses. The secondary arsenal leaves something to be desired—especially in regard to his breaking ball—and will need refinement as he continues to climb the organizational ladder.
However, his combination of handedness and command should at least be enough to get him to the major leagues, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees some time in the Cardinals’ starting rotation next season.