Trying to even find any type of a reasonable projection for Zack Cozart is extremely difficult. Sure, you could go off his parts of five years in the minors, but even then you might not get anything close. There are certain facets of Cozart’s game will be able to catch from comparing his yearly numbers as a minor league player.
For the sake of this post, I will attempt to cover those facets as there is not nearly enough big league info to “study”. I will also draw info from some good sources: Minor League Ball and Reds Minor Leagues websites.
Here’s looking to the “new” Reds shortstop…
Stats and projections
1. Opposing pitchers still haven’t seen him
He’s on video, but it’s a different animal especially since Cozart only managed 38 plate appearances last season. You can watch the video from all of those 38 and still may not compile a definitive plan on how to pitch him. Of course, you could resort to what is the bugaboo of many a minor league guy: pitches with tilt and/or movement. Nothing straight.
2. Stolen base success rate
Sometimes not enough is said about Cozart’s speed. While he’s not going to win a foot race with Drew Stubbs (who on the Reds 40-man roster would?), he’s above average. Maybe even a little faster. For his minor league career, Cozart can boast an 82% succes rate. In 2010, he pulled off 30 thefts in 34 attempts. Pretty darn good. Hopefully, that can translate to big league play.
For Cozart’s minor league days, his RF/G was 4.54. I know this is a slight bit of comparing apples to oranges, but that would have ranked him third in the National League just last year. Try Tulowitzki led all NL shortstops with a 4.84. Second was Ronny Cedeno (4.70). Cozart would have been next with Starlin Castro (4.51) and Rafael Furcal (4.47) rounding out the top 5.
This is partly attributable to Cozart’s low BB% and low BB/K ratio. Those were 7.4% and 0.45, respectively, during his days in the minors. The only time Cozart posted a BB% above 10.0% was in 2009 (11.6%) when he was a member of the Carolina roster. That’s the same year he had a BB/K ration above 0.50 (0.72). But it’s not only me seeing this. Here’s Doug Gray of Reds Minor Leagues…
Needs to work on: He is still an aggressive hitter at the plate who could benefit from a little more patience.
And John Sickles of Minor League Ball agrees…
Good fielder with some pop in his bat, keeps exceeding expectations. Plate discipline is spotty and I doubt he hits .300+ in a full season, but he should be a solid regular.
2. Is Cozart capable of hitting second in the order?
When Cozart was promoted from Louisville, that’s where Dusty put him. Worked out pretty darn well, but it is only 38 plate appearances. Actually, there may not be a better alternative right now considering it looks like Brandon Phillips will be leading off. (I made my take on where BP should hit yesterday.) I mention leadoff since former BRM staffer Kevin Geary once said the Bats offense took off after Cozart was inserted in the leadoff spot.
Referring back to plate discipline and patience, it will need to be emphasized this spring if Cozart will be effective in the 2-hole.
With so little known about Cozart as a big league player, it’s so difficult to think about his bat production. There are a couple of things we all can determine: He will not walk a lot and he will be around 100 strikeouts. We can only hope he develops more discipline and not be as aggressive as he displayed in the minors.
I do like James projections. They do somewhat follow his minor league averages showing slight regression from those since Cozart is in the big leagues now. He can pack some pop, but do not mistake him for an on-base machine. That aspect can develop, but it will take time.