A day after Zack Cozart and the Reds’ postseason run came to a close, we have officially closed the book on his rookie season. However, no matter what he did in October, we all know not to make judgements based on a small sample size, whether it is good to bad. Instead, we will look back at the following numbers from the regular season when assessing Cozart:
561 At Bats
.246 Batting Average (138 Hits)
15 Home Runs
4 Stolen Bases
.288 On Base Percentage
.399 Slugging Percentage
While he was probably forced into some positions that he shouldn’t have been in as a rookie, there is a lot to not like about this performance. Does that mean there isn’t hope? Of course not, but right now I would not be entering 2013 full of optimism.
Let’s start with the average. While there is some upside potential, especially in the BABIP department (especially with his 20% line drive rate), he was only a .270 hitter in the minor leagues. His strikeout rate was not awful, at 18.8%, but he also showed an inability to draw a walk. With a 5.2% walk rate, why should opposing pitchers throw him a strike?
While it didn’t necessarily show up in his stats last season (over the final three months he posted line drive rates above 21%), it is something to watch. If he does start expanding his strike zone and chasing pitches, the numbers are going to fall.
As it is, I can’t simply credit the poor average to luck as it isn’t the biggest surprise given his minor league numbers.
The 15 HR he hit are nice and realistic. It’s also nice to see him hit more on the road (9) then at home (6). With an 8.8% HR/FB and a manageable fly ball rate, there is every reason to think that he could improve in the power department.
However, even hitting leadoff (443 AB), it just seems nearly impossible to hit that many home runs and only manage 35 RBI. A .182 average with runners in scoring position helps to explain it (as does 13 solo home runs). You obviously aren’t going to look for him to be a run producer, but you have to expect better numbers even if he sticks atop the order.
That last point, however, I would say is in major doubt. With a poor average and poor walk rate, what skills does Cozart bring to the table to justify keeping him there? It’s fair to say he wasn’t ready to be thrust into that type of spot, but he was, he didn’t produce and there are plenty of reasons to think that he isn’t going to produce any better in 2013.
While he does have a bit more speed then he showed, his 30 SB in 2010 clearly appear to be an aberration considering he hasn’t come close to that mark in any other professional season.
At the end of the day, it seems likely Cozart gets demoted in the batting order. I would be surprised if the Reds didn’t bring in a more natural fit atop the order, helping guys like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to produce bigger numbers. That would definitely hurt the potential appeal of Cozart.
An off the cuff expectation would probably be somewhere in the vicinity of .265 with 15-20 HR, 50-60 RBI, 65ish R and 5-10 SB hitting seventh or eighth in the Reds order. Are those decent numbers? Absolutely, but I can find alternatives that I would expect similar output from.
He’s a late round flier, at best, unless something dramatically changes between now and April.
What are your thoughts of Cozart? Is he a player you think could take the next step in 2013? Why or why not?
Make sure to check out the rest of our extremely early 2013 rankings: