Zack Cozart made his Major League debut in 2011, with a 37 AB trial that was just enough to whet our appetite (.324 with 2 HR, 3 RBI, 6 R and 0 SB). We would have had a much longer track record to go by, but an elbow injury stopped him in his tracks. However, all we have to do is look at his Triple-A numbers since 2010 to get an idea of what is possible:
876 At Bats
.275 Batting Average (241 Hits)
24 Home Runs
39 Stolen Bases
.327 On Base Percentage
.435 Slugging Percentage
The numbers are impressive, especially when you consider that he played in the International League (not the overly hitter friendly Pacific Coast League). Obviously there is a lot to like, but you also need to be careful as not all of the numbers should be believed.
He had 30 SB in 2010 after stealing a grand total of 16 bases in his first 2+ years in professional baseball (he was a second round draft pick in 2007). Did he simply learn how to steal bases, or is the number an aberration? Just consider that he followed it up with just 9 SB in 323 AB in ’11 prior to his recall.
Baseball America recently said:
“He has average speed with the instincts to pick his spots to steal bases.”
In other words, 2010 is not a number that we should be expecting him to replicate. Don’t look at him as a 20/20 player. In reality, depending on where he hits in the order, 10-15 SB is a much more reasonable expectation.
The other serious concern is his ability to draw a walk and work a count. At Triple-A he drew just 62 BB, good for a 6.6% walk rate. Granted, he hasn’t struck out an excessive amount either (16.5% at Triple-A), but we would much rather see him prove capable of getting on base more often.
If he could do that, he would have the ability to slide into the second spot of the Reds order. Obviously, if he hit there, in front of the likes of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, his value would increase exponentially. Early on it is hard to imagine the Reds putting that type of burden on him, especially with his lack of OBP ability at this point. Keep that in mind as well, though it’s not out of the question.
It may seem like I am talking Cozart down, but you just need to be aware of the potential negatives of a player you are going to buy. You don’t want to simply look at the overall numbers and draw a definitive conclusion. It doesn’t mean that Cozart is any worse of a buy, but you need to go in with your eyes open.
There is no questioning his ability to hit for moderate power from a position that doesn’t generally yield much (on top of his 24 HR, he has hit 56 doubles and 6 triples at Triple-A). When coupled with the moderate speed he is also going to get you and solid average (figure .260, assuming his strikeout rises as one would expect) and there is a solid overall package.
When you throw in his upside to potentially go 20/15, if everything goes right, and there is a lot to like at the tail end of your draft. I wouldn’t draft him as more than a middle infielder (and would much prefer him as a bench option), but with the potential he brings to the table in a hitter’s ballpark and a loaded linup he is well worth the selection.
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