Cincinnati Reds in Review: SS Zack Cozart

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If you’re a Cincinnati Reds fan, chances are that you have a pointed opinion of shortstop Zack Cozart. Either he’s a waste of a spot in the lineup, or you’re willing to put up with his offensive inefficiencies in exchange for his stellar defense.

Now, if only there was a middle ground…

Zack Cozart – Shortstop

On a team littered with former first-round draft picks, Cozart is one of the rare ones to be only a second-rounder. Taken in 2007 out of the University of Mississippi, everything from his drawl, to his walk up song of “The South,” indicates what Cozart’s all about.

Since 2012, the shortstop position has been Cozart’s. The Reds are no strangers to defensive gurus up the middle, as Barry Larkin and Davey Concepcion rank amongst some of the best to ever wear a glove. While he is yet to win a Gold Glove (and has some serious competition in Andrelton Simmons of the Atlanta Braves), to say Cozart wouldn’t be worthy would be blasphemous.

On the defensive side of the diamond is where fans can begin and end agreeing about Cozart’s game. He will never be confused for a potential Silver Slugger, but all throughout his professional career, he has shown proficiency to hitting the ball out of the park. That is, until 2014.

How quickly Cozart has collapsed doesn’t seem logical. Never has Cozart had an on-base percentage above the .300 mark in a Major League season, so to expect him to be a top of the order hitter is illogical. But, with the fact that he is one of the better defensive players in all of baseball at any position, that alone should keep him in the lineup. Even with that fact, he will have to perform at a higher level than he did in 2014, and there is no indication that he won’t. (The oddest Cozart statistic I could find was this: he led the league in sacrifice flies in 2013 with ten. In 2014, he didn’t have a single one. That perfectly personifies just how unlucky of a season Cozart had; there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to return to form in 2015.)

Cozart’s Stat Line:

.221/.268/.300, 506 AB’s, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 61 OPS+, 0.3 oWAR, 2.8 dWAR

Top Zack Cozart Moment:

It’s fitting for a defensive wizard such as Cozart to have his best moment of the season come with the glove, and not the bat. Of course, there weren’t very many moments to choose from with his thunder stick, so picking a defensive gem wasn’t exactly a difficult choice.

On April 2 at home against the St. Louis Cardinals, Cozart made arguably the defensive play of the season for the Redlegs. With Manny Parra pitching in a scoreless contest in the top of the eighth inning and a man on second with two away, Matt Carpenter would smash a line drive headed towards centerfield. Heading in that direction at the moment of contact, Cozart sprinted back until his only option was to dive headlong and snare the ball just before it hit the ground.

Both Cozart and Parra would celebrate wildly after the grab, which set up an eventual walk-off winning base hit by Chris Heisey in the bottom of the ninth, which gave the Reds their first win of the season.

Low-Point of the Season for Zack Cozart:

Some hitters start slow and then warm up towards the end of the season. On the other hand, some begin blazing hot and then fade towards the conclusion. But Zack Cozart was stiflingly cold to start, and wasn’t any better come the end.

Batting just .180 in the month of April with a slugging percentage of .292, things would only get worse in September where he would bat .172 with a .276 slugging.

If we’re being technical, nearly any time Cozart stepped into the batter’s box in 2014 was a low-point. Thankfully, he’ll have the opportunity to come back strong in 2015.

Final Grade: C+

Despite putting up a madding season offensively, there is no denying how stellar Cozart was at short defensively. Thumpers cannot occupy every spot in the lineup and hiding Cozart in the eighth spot in the batting order is still doing a lot better than what most clubs throw out there.