The lead-off hitter is a position that many teams look to fill with a player who can do a little bit of everything. Of course, their main job is to get on base, but the ultimate first hitter in a lineup can also steal bases, move runners around, and hit some home runs if needed. The prototype is Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, but teams rarely find players who have the same wide range of skills he possessed as the greatest lead-off hitter of all time.
Marquise Cooper is a young center fielder in the Florida Marlins’ farm system who they hope will develop into their lead-off hitter of the future. They drafted him out of high school, with their third round pick in the 2009 MLB draft. Because of his age he has been moved slowly during his first few years, but has flashed the talent that made him so coveted by the Marlins. He will probably not be the next Rickey Henderson, but if all goes well, he is a candidate for being the type of player who fills in a lot of sections of a stat sheet.
Like his childhood idol Henderson, Cooper displays an excellent ability to get on base. The right-handed hitter has not yet produced a high batting average, but draws a lot of walks for a player as young as he is. He is also a good base stealer, and has seen his success rate rise each season of his professional career.
Despite being only 5’9, Cooper also looks like he will come into some power, which will make him ever more desirable in the lead-off spot. He is currently playing with the Jamestown Jammers in the New York Penn League, and has really turned things around after a slow start to the season. More information on his statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=cooper004mar.
The Marlins have gone a number of years not being a major player in the standings. Part of this is because they have so many unsettled spots on their roster. If Cooper continues to expand his game, and get better in all the important areas, he could become a fixture in the Florida outfield in the future, and possibly anchor the top of their batting order.
Marquise Cooper Interview:
How did you first become interested in baseball?: Through my Grandma, because she always used to watch it with some of my uncles. One day I rolled by, and she asked if I wanted to play, and I said “Yeah!”
Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?: My favorite team was the Oakland A’s, and my favorite player was Rickey Henderson.
Do you model your game after Henderson?: I try. It’s kind of hard to do, but I try.
You were an excellent high school football player. Did you have scholarships to play collegiate football, and was it an easy decision to choose baseball?: I didn’t really get scholarship offers. I played, but didn’t really get any interest in the game. It was an easy decision because everyone in baseball lasts longer than football; everyone gets worn down pretty bad.
How did you first discover that the Marlins were interested in you?: They came to some of my high school games and checked me out. Probably a couple of days before the draft, they actually came to my high school and talked to me. I was really happy that anyone had interest in me.
After signing with Florida, did you do anything special for yourself or your family?: When I got drafted I was at my high school graduation, so after that I just had a party. It was like a going away party, because I was ready to go out and play baseball.
What is the strangest thing you have encountered on the baseball field so far as a professional?: Well last year I made a diving catch and threw somebody out. It was surprising, because when I got moved up, it was High-A. The higher you move up, the better they are. It was just something that caught me off-guard.
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