As we move around the horn in the Blog Red Machine positional grades, it’s now time to take a look at Brandon Phillip’s partner up the middle. It’s no secret that shortstop has been a revolving door for the Reds since Barry Larkin retired. Coming into this season Phillips had 23 different double-play partners.
Zack Cozart spent his second full season in Cincinnati trying to prove that he could entrench himself on the left side of the Reds infield for years to come. With only Cesar Izturis behind him on the depth chart, Cozart had plenty of opportunites. Let’s take a look at all the facets of Cozart’s game and see what grade he earned this season.
Cozart takes a lot of heat for his offensive output…deservingly so. A glance at his numbers show less than stellar numbers:
Many of Cozart’s outs this season came on the ground (211 as opposed to 151 in the air). With a team not known for it’s speed, Cozart’s groundouts led to 18 double plays, which was third-most among all shortstops.
On a positive note, Cozart did show an improvement after the All-Star break. His batting average and OBP were both nearly 50 points higher following the break.
In addition, Cozart tied Adrian Gonzalez for the league lead in sacrifice flys with 10 last season. He also tied Cole Hamels for third in sacrifice bunts with 13. Stats like those are ones that don’t show up in a box score but are crucial to a team’s success.
As frustrating as Cozart can be at the plate he is equally as respectable in the field. Twice named the organizations best defensive infielder in the minors, Cozart may not be a Gold Glove defender but is above-average with the leather. The combination of Cozart and Phillips make up arguably the strongest middle infield in baseball.
Last season, Cozart posted a .977 fielding percentage committing just 14 errors in 622 total chances. Despite his strong performance in the field there is still room for improvement. With counterpart Brandon Phillips receiving a “B” grade, Cozart receives a little lower.
In his sophomore campaign, Cozart did nothing to secure his place in the Reds lineup for years to come. On the other hand, he really did nothing to force himself out of the starting role. The team and fans will look for Cozart to hit for a better average in 2014 while continuing to move runners over with sacrifices on offense and playing shut down defense. With no better shortstop currently on the roster, Cozart’s spot looks safe and hopefully he will continue to progress in 2014.