Aug 21, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart (2) during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Reds defeated the Phillies 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIREAren’t we tired of what-ifs in Cincinnati? Have the last twenty years not been defined by wasted potential and colossal let-downs? The Reds, after making the playoffs two out of the last three years, are in a very important transition period. They’re stuck in neutral, somewhere in between pretty good and class of the NL. The moves they do or don’t make this offseason may determine which end of that spectrum they’ll ultimately rest on.
I’m not discrediting Didi Gregorius at all. In 21 plate appearances last season, kid hit .300. I’d call his appearance at the major league level a cup of coffee, but it’s more like a shot of expresso.
In five minor league seasons, Didi is hitting .271 with an OBP of .323. Interestingly enough, in just five minor league seasons, Cozart hit .270 with a OBP of .332.
So what’s the difference? Are you holding the .246 batting average in 600 plate appearances against Cozart? Is his .288 OBP in 2012 enough to send him packing?
Those are fair questions. But one thing I think any reader will agree with is that Zack Cozart can play at this level. He has more pop, which is important considering the hometown venue. In five minor league seasons, Cozart hit 30 more home runs than Didi. Cozart gave the Reds a mildly impressive 15 last year. Sure, Cozart was third on the team in strike outs, but he was also third on the team in total bases. In addition, he was third on the team in total hits, collecting 12 more hits than Joey Votto himself (OK, Votto missed nearly two months, so make Cozart 4th if you have to).
The point is, we know Zack Cozart can play at the major league level. We have no idea about Didi. Maybe Didi is the Reds’ next great shortstop. Didi hit just .243 in about 200 plate appearances with Louisville last year. And where that doesn’t determine anything, it does reinforce the fact that we just don’t know.
I say trade the bus rider. Trade the potential in exchange for proven MLB talent. The Reds have a very capable short stop. What they don’t have is a leadoff man. If one of these shortstops has to go, I don’t like the idea of trading one that we know can play, rather than one with “potential.” Lots of guys in this city had potential. Jonny Gomes? Tons of potential. Juan Francisco? Huge potential guy. Austin Kearns may be the potential poster child. My point is, potential doesn’t always pan out. I’m sticking with proven talent. If one shortstop is being shopped, shop the guy riding the bus and keep the guy that has demonstrated himself capable of playing at this high of a level.
Cozart is a top 15 shortstop in terms of batting average. Let the other team deal with the what-ifs.