- AAA: 33 G, 6 HR in 156 PAs, .310/.423/.527 (.950 OPS)
- MLB: 66 G, 3 HR in 201 PAs, .176/.274/.307 (66 OPS+), -0.3 bWAR
- AFL: 7 G, 1 HR in 22 PAs, .471/.591/.706 (1.297 OPS)
Date of birth: November 28, 1994 (28 years old)
2022 earnings: $523,056 (via Spotrac)
2023 status: Traded to the Mariners for left fielder/DH Kyle Lewis.
I enthusiastically cheer for the underdog. That’s why I chose to write about Cooper Hummel.
“I would say I was always the underdog growing up…. I was usually the smallest on all my teams, which meant I had to work harder than the others to compete.” — Cooper Hummel
He changed the positions that he played.
- In 2016 the Brewers drafted him. He played catcher for a year and a half.
- In 2018 he switched to playing the corner outfield positions.
- In 2021 (newly promoted to AAA) he switched to a utility player with a mix of 75% left field, 12% catcher, and 13% first base.
In July of 2021, the Diamondbacks acquired him in a trade. He continued as a utility player with a mix of 80% left field, 14% catcher, and 5% first base.
He made the opening day roster as an outfielder. In April and May he played left field and DH. Also, three times he entered the game as catcher in the ninth inning.
Then he suffered a batting slump. His OPS fell from .703 in April to .583 in May. In June and again in July he was optioned to AAA, which greatly reduced his playing time in the Majors.
In August something amazing happened. His focus became entirely on catching.
In August he returned to the Majors exclusively playing catcher. He played 115.1 innings as catcher over 15 games. In the Majors, that kind of abrupt change in position played is rare and when the change finds even moderate success it is amazing. Of the season’s five Diamondbacks’ catchers, he ranked last with negative 5 Defensive Runs Saved (The Fielding Bible) and negative 3.5 Fielding Runs Above Average (Baseball Prospectus). Despite those statistics, moderate success was seen in his improved batting.
In September something great happened. His OPS improved to .710, his best batting of the season.
“I don’t think any pitcher is good enough to get me out. That’s always been my mind set and it will never change. I’m always looking for ‘my pitch’ to hit.” If that offering doesn’t come, he isn’t afraid to keep the bat on his shoulder. “I’m not consciously trying to walk but I am more than happy to take the walk if a pitcher doesn’t give me something I want to hit. I think my eye at the plate is my biggest strength, but sometimes that can get me into trouble because I can get too selective.” — Cooper Hummel
To give him more playing time as catcher, he was assigned to play in the AZ Fall League. His batting was impressive (1.297 OPS). His defense as catcher was inconsistent.
[Playing catcher in the AZ Fall League] “His defense behind the plate was a mixed bag, as his throws and ability to block balls in the dirt were inconsistent. Hummel has good mobility behind the plate and a decent enough arm, but he needs a lot of work to stick as a potential backup catcher. If the defense shows improvement, he can stick around for a while as a backup catcher.” — Michael McDermott
If Cooper Hummel had remained a Diamondback, he would have been a strong candidate to play backup catcher for primary catcher Carson Kelly. Reasons follow:
- Last season, his batting was better an alternate backup catcher Jose Herrera. His batting improved in September and in the AA Fall league in October.
- Last season his 28.8 feet/second sprint speed ranked 5th highest on the team.
- Although his defensive statistics as catcher were not great, they are explained by his switch to catcher in August of 2022. I was confident his defense would have improved as he gained high-level experience playing catcher.
Cooper Hummel was traded to the Mariners. Their anticipated catchers (Cal Raleigh and Tom Murphy) bat well above average. As a Mariner, it is likely that Cooper Hummel will play left field, most likely from the bench as a utility player.