‘Quiet leader’ Pratt highlights Brewers’ Day 2 picks

Published 6:54 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023

By Tim Stebbins

Chris McMinn, head baseball coach at Magnolia Heights High School in Senatobia remembers the moment vividly.

Two years ago, Magnolia Heights was playing in Phoenix, in front of at least a dozen scouts who came out to watch their opponent — one of the country’s top high school teams.

Email newsletter signup

But things soon changed. Sophomore Cooper Pratt — Magnolia Heights’ second baseman who moved to shortstop after his brother, Ozzie, broke his ankle — caught their attention.

“All of a sudden, after he makes two plays at short, they start to maneuver over to our dugout asking questions,” McMinn said. “That’s when you could really see the potential.”

Pratt continued on an upward developmental trajectory. And Monday, the Brewers selected him in the sixth round (182nd overall) of the 2023 MLB Draft.

Magnolia Heights has had a relationship with the Brewers and area scout Scott Nichols for several years now, McMinn said, and Milwaukee intensified its scouting of Pratt last summer. McMinn estimated they were at half of their games this past high school season.

“It was a blessing that he was able to go to that organization,” McMinn said.

The Brewers’ excitement around the 18-year-old is palpable, and it’s easy to see why. Pratt is 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds. He was Mississippi’s 2022-23 Gatorade Player of the Year.

He has great bat-to-ball skills, projectable power as his frame fills out and natural instincts at shortstop, combined with a big arm that has eclipsed 90 mph from the position.

“Defensively, he is one of the top high school defenders in the country,” McMinn said. “He made three errors all season and didn’t make one after the fifth game of the year at short. His knowledge of the game is really high. Baseball IQ is there with anybody, any high school player in the country.

“He’s just a kid whose upside is just tremendous.”

“He’s got great instincts,” Brewers VP of scouting Tod Johnson said. “He’s just a really, really good baseball player. His power started to develop a lot this year, as well, as he kind of filled in a pretty lean, lanky frame. He’s got really good pitch recognition — for a high school kid, especially — and just really good actions.”

In some scouting reports, Pratt has drawn comparisons to Gunnar Henderson, the young Orioles star, only as a right-handed hitter.

“He moves well for his size,” McMinn said. “He’s going to be a guy that can play short or third. I think he’s a big league shortstop within the next five years. His body really works well together.”

Although it’s possible Pratt gets big enough where he moves off shortstop, Johnson said the Brewers like his hands and instincts over there. They’re going to give him every chance to stick at the position.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” Johnson said.

Pratt, who was ranked the No. 45 prospect in the Draft by MLB Pipeline, is committed to Ole Miss, and potentially dropped to the sixth round due to perceived signability questions.

However, the Brewers are optimistic about their chances to sign him.

“Nothing’s 100 percent sure, but I feel pretty good about the opportunity there,” Johnson said. “Obviously, he did have a strong [commitment], but he’s also really committed to baseball and loves baseball. I think we have a chance, anyways. I think we’re pretty confident that it will work out. But obviously, nothing’s 100 percent guaranteed until the ink is on the paper.”

Magnolia Heights has won five straight state championships, and Pratt obviously played a significant role in that streak.

When he stepped to the plate with runners on base, McMinn said, his Magnolia Heights teammates knew he was going to drive them in. When he took the mound, they felt confident they would get a win that day.

Pratt was consistent, both in his production and the way he carried himself.

“He’s a quiet leader, but he’s a leader by how hard he works, and he encourages the other guys,” McMinn said. “He never wanted to be above the team. That’s one thing that stood out to our younger players, and even teachers and principals and the head of schools and stuff. He just wanted to be the other guy.

“He wanted to be the best player on the field, but he didn’t want all the attention or the accolades that was going to come along with it. He just wanted to win.”

Tim Stebbins is a reporter/producer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @tim_stebbins.