Cooper Kinney has played for his father, Mike, over the last four years at Baylor School in Tennessee. Kinney, a high school senior, has enjoyed learning from his father, who played collegiately at Tennessee Tech and has over 20 years of coaching experience.
The father-son duo has had a highly successful first three years together at Baylor. Baylor won the Tennessee state championship in 2018 and 2019. With the postseason canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Baylor is trying for its third consecutive title this season.
While Kinney’s focus is on helping Baylor capture a state title, he also is a top prospect for July’s MLB draft. Scouts project Kinney as a potential top-five-round pick who is rising up draft boards due to his notable offensive ability.
“I didn’t know a ton about the draft process until this year,” Kinney said. “I played it by year and learned some stuff along the way. It has been really fun. It has been really great to get the opportunities to play in front of major league scouts and show my skill.”
Kinney is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound left-handed hitter who has simple mechanics and an easy and relaxed approach. He is an impact hitter who squares up the ball consistently, has impressive bat speed and projectable power due to his durable and athletic build.
“For me, just being around the game so long has helped me develop a high baseball IQ and strong mental game,” Kinney said. “Skill-wise, I think I can compete in the box against really good pitching. I can have good at-bats, and my pitch recognition is something I pride myself in.”
One under-the-radar trait in Kinney’s game is his defensive versatility. He played every defensive position growing up and currently plays catcher and third base at Baylor. This season, he has played mostly at third base while occasionally getting time behind the plate.
He has a compact arm action and makes accurate throws. His arm strength draws mixed reviews, but Kinney believes he has “at least average to above-average arm strength,” he said.
Some scouts project Kinney as a second baseman in the future, but he believes he can stick at third base long-term.
“I don’t have the greatest arm of all time, but I think I make up for that with my accuracy and quickness,” Kinney said.
Besides his status as a top draft prospect, Kinney also is a South Carolina commit.
Kinney is an intriguing draft prospect whose value is mostly tied to his offensive ability. He is eager for the opportunity to play at South Carolina, if he doesn’t start a pro career this summer.
“South Carolina just seemed like the best fit for me as a player and my development,” Kinney said. “I just feel like I have the best opportunity to grow and grow as a player there. The environment, coaching staff, the players and the facilities all really caught my eye.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.