Baseball

Back in blue: Texas’ Morgan Cooper eager to sign with Dodgers, start his pro career

Posted June 14th, 2017

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Story highlights
  • Texas had 11 players taken in the MLB amateur draft, which was the most among any school in the country.
  • Cooper said he expects to sign with the Dodgers within the next few days; he'll then be assigned to a minor league team.
  • Eight of UT's 11 drafted players are underclassmen and have until July 15 to decide whether to return to school or go pro.

For Texas pitcher Morgan Cooper, it’s back to the blue.

On Monday, the Longhorns right-hander was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 62nd overall pick of the MLB first-year player draft. The second-round selection means that Cooper, whose draft position is valued at $1 million, will be trading in his burnt-orange jersey.

Folks up the road in Jarrell, though, will be happy to let Dodgers fans know that Cooper looks good in blue. After all, it’s one of the colors he wore at Jarrell High School, where Cooper won a state championship in 2012.

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“I grew up wearing blue, then orange, and I guess I’m back to the blue now,” Cooper said Wednesday. “I don’t think there is much of a difference (in the shades of blue), which works out well for me.”

Cooper, surrounded by his family and girlfriend, watched the first round of the draft on Monday. When the second round began, eyes shifted from the television to an online broadcast. Cooper didn’t get a phone call from the Dodgers before he was selected, but an adviser tipped him off a couple of picks beforehand that he might be selected soon.

Cooper, a redshirt junior, still has one year of eligibility left with the Longhorns. But he expects to sign with the Dodgers within the next few days. He was one of 11 Longhorns taken over the three days of the draft, which led the country.

“The four years I’ve spent here have been awesome,” Cooper said. “Been through good times, been through bad times. When you get your name called, you know that all the hard work and everything, it pays off.”

Cooper, who missed the 2015 season while recuperating from Tommy John surgery, bounced back with 70 strikeouts and a 4.03 ERA in 2016. The Washington Nationals took a 34th-round flyer on him in last year’s draft, but he opted to return to Texas.

His stock only rose. Cooper went 6-3 this spring, notching wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and UCLA. His 110 strikeouts led the Big 12 and his 2.32 ERA and his .204 opponents’ batting average ranked third. An All-Big 12 and All-American honoree, Cooper walked 33 batters in 89.1 innings.

“Very rewarding for him and for the Longhorns, because we benefited from his preparation,” Texas coach David Pierce said. “There’s no way that he ends up in the position that he ended up (after his injury), being a second-rounder, without his work ethic.”

He was one of six UT pitchers that were drafted, along with Nick Kennedy, Kyle Johnston, Tyler Schimpf, Connor Mayes and Jon Malmin. In his final start as a Longhorn, Cooper went eight innings in an NCAA regional game against Long Beach State on June 3. Texas won the  game 5-3 win in 12 innings — but Cooper, who allowed six hits, struck out seven and gave up two earned runs, didn’t factor into the decision.

Cooper said he was told that there were four members of the Dodgers’ organization there that night at Long Beach State’s Blair Field.

“Being on the West Coast, some people got to see me that probably hadn’t seen me unless they made the trip down here,” Cooper said. “It was a good game, obviously, and I’m glad we won, but it was also good just to have a good outing. ”

The 6-4, 215-pound Cooper, equipped with a curveball, slider, change-up and a fastball that has hit 96 miles per hour, will soon head to a yet-to-be determined minor league location. He won’t be the only drafted Longhorn in the minors.

Texas’s Tyler Schimpf pitches to Incarnate Word during the first inning on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

On Tuesday, pitchers Nick Kennedy and Kyle Johnston were chosen in the fifth and sixth rounds by the Colorado Rockies and Washington Nationals. The Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays then used eight-round picks on infielder Bret Boswell and first baseman Kacy Clemens.

A half-dozen Longhorns were taken Wednesday, the final day of the draft.

California teams plucked up pitchers Tyler Schimpf (Giants, 13th round) and Jon Malmin (Angels, 31st) and outfielder Zane Gurwitz (Angels, 26th). The Kansas City Royals used two of their picks on pitcher Connor Mayes (24th) and outfielder Travis Jones (29th). Outfielder Patrick Mathis went to the nearby Houston Astros in the 22nd round.

The underclassmen among Texas’ draftees — Clemens, Gurwitz and Malmin are the only seniors — must decide by July 15 whether to return to Texas or begin their professional careers.

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