2013 Reds

Redleg Nation 2013 Preview: Zack Cozart

Zack Cozart
2012 Slash Line: .246/.288/.399
2013 Projection: .260/.310/.420

2012 WAR: 2.7
2013 Best Guess WAR: 3.5
Projected Difference: +0.8
2013 Floor: 1.5
2013 Ceiling: 5.0

This is the fourth part of this series, and I know you’re all waiting for me to project someone to improve. Guess what? That time has come. Last year, Zack Cozart was voted Reds rookie least likely to be a disgrace by various scouting reports. He did not, um, disappoint. That is, he was pretty good. You can’t ask for much more than 2.7 wins from a rookie shortstop. He was poorly cast as a top-of-the-order hitter, but that isn’t his fault, and his defense certainly sparkled.

So, how does he stand to improve? Remember on Monday when I told you about how lucky Todd Frazier was? Zack Cozart was that unlucky and then some. His batting average on balls in play was way, way too low and it showed in his slash line. The best part is, I’m not alone on this at all. Every projections system I’ve seen has Cozart’s offense improving to some extent and no one really sees a drop off in his fielding. Though I don’t think it’s likely, it actually wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Cozart out hit Frazier this year.

Barring injury, I really don’t see anyway Cozart can fall lower than he was last year. I still put his floor at 1.5 WAR because you never know, but it’s easier for me to imagine a 4 win season than anything below a 2 win season for Cozart.

There are caveats, of course. Cozart is a bit older than even Todd Frazier and we shouldn’t necessarily expect him to produce for a long, long time. Still, I think he profiles better. I’ll even go so far as to say that I think it’s more likely Cozart is still a regular in five years than it is that Frazier is. Largely because I think he has a higher ceiling.

For a few years at least, the Reds can rest easy at short. Cozart is no Barry Larkin, but he’s the first shortstop since Larkin to prove he can hold down the position.

53 thoughts on “Redleg Nation 2013 Preview: Zack Cozart

  1. Jason, I think batting down in the lineup is going to be huge for Zack this year. I believe it’s going to make him a more confident and patient hitter.

  2. i think cozart is one of the toughest to project.

    on the one hand, he’s going to have a better lineup around him, and less pressure, which should lead to better results. add that to the batted ball issues mentioned in the post, and it looks like cozart could take a big step forward.

    on the other hand, cozart is a pretty extreme pull hitter, and as the pitchers and defenses learn how to deal with him more, he might take a step back. that’s pretty normal for second year players.

    i think his defense will keep his value pretty high, but predicting his offense seems tough to me.

  3. It’s easy to see Cozart as a starting SS in the NL for many seasons to come. 1. He’s extremely consistent with the glove and just good enough with the bat. 2. There’s a huge demand for ‘true’ shortstops around baseball.

    Cozart doesn’t have to be a world beater, he just has to give us more of the same while shortening the length of his slumps a bit. I mean, even now he’s in the top third of all shortstops in baseball.

    I always ask myself ‘could I see this guy as a starter on a world championship team’? Without a doubt, yes, and that’s good enough.

  4. Jason-3.5 seems awfully optimistic to me. He was very good defensively last season, and I think what he did last year is pretty much what he is as a batter. He is a low OBP guy with some pop. He is more or less a poor man’s JJ Hardy. Given that he will probably get 65-90 less PAs (which would affect his WAR) batting 7th or 8th this season, I think he will need a major breakout defensively to even approach a 3.5 WAR. I think the Oliver projection-.250/.299/.386 with a similar defensive season from 2012 is most likely.

  5. Another good review.

    I think Cozart faces an advantage over other guys, like Todd Frazier, in that fans don’t expect as much from him offensively, and with his gold glove caliber fielding at shortstop he doesn’t necessarily have to hit much. I’m thrilled (but not at all surprised) that they chose to keep Cozart over Didi Gregorius.

    I’m happy that Cozart will probably start out in the bottom of the lineup, presumably hitting 7th. It’ll be interesting to see how long he stays there though – if Choo or Phillips get injured (or moved to the middle of the lineup, as both have done in the past) I think Cozart will be moved back to the leadoff or #2 spot in the order. Hopefully that won’t be necessary, but that’s part of the uncertainty that Cozart may face.

  6. I have Cozart at .252/.304/.407 … With his glove and hitting 7th or 8th, those numbers work at SS.

  7. Cozart came here because the club figured he had figured out his bat. He wasn’t in the zone for just a week or two. He was in the zone for seemingly a half season. Then, the injury. He has struggled with the bat ever since.

    The young ones have a lot to prove. Frazier has to prove he can keep last season up. Cozart has to prove he can find his bat pre-season. Devin is the same as Cozart. At catcher, we do have Hanigan if Devin goes bad again. But, we have no one for Cozart and Frazier.

    I’m fine in the field with Cozart and Devin. I believe Frazier will be ok at 3rd, also. But, if all their bats go/stay south, along with a regular pitcher hitting, that will be almost half the lineup as easy outs. We are going to need a couple of these bats to be here this year.

  8. I think that’s a reasonable upside projection for Cozy. I’ll be interested to see if his defensive value has any ill-effect from playing alongside Frazier fulltime, but I think his bat will be exactly what you’ve said: marginally better fueled by the presumptive bump in BABIP.

    Personally, I’ll be watching to see if he runs any more this season. He once stole 30 bags in a AAA season, yet only attempted 4 (and was successful all 4 times) in 600 PAs last season. While I don’t expect him to attempt 30, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him swipe 15-20. That coupled with 15 HR and above average SS defense would see him eclipse 3 WAR.

    • Cozart is steady with the glove. For a host of reaasons, I think Cozart will have a good season at the plate. Not the least of which is him batting 7th now. The pressure he put on himself as the leadoff hitter crippled his hitting at times. I think we’ll see him hitting around .275-.280 this year.
      And I was thinking the same thing as Batman:

      Personally, I’ll be watching to see if he runs any more this season. He once stole 30 bags in a AAA season, yet only attempted 4 (and was successful all 4 times) in 600 PAs last season. While I don’t expect him to attempt 30, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him swipe 15-20.

      With Stubbs gone, I think we’ll see Cozart pick it up on SB’s. The Reds will send him more often now. I think he’ll have a minimum of 20 SB’s. Hoping for a 20-20 season for Cozart.

  9. Cozart will save a lot of runs. If you add that to Jason’s projected offense I think the fans will be just fine with him for a long time.

    • @Brian Van Hook: Sure he would if there were less than 2 outs. He could use the sacrifice bunt!!!!!!!

      Yep, remember that after the pitcher bunts the Reds should have a ~.300 average/~.370 OBP hitter named Shin-Shoo Choo coming up next. Having a good hitter after the pitcher really changes things, doesn’t it?

      • Yep, remember that after the pitcher bunts the Reds should have a ~.300 average/~.370 OBP hitter named Shin-Shoo Choo coming up next. Having a good hitter after the pitcher really changes things, doesn’t it?

        Actually, this is what I meant to quote.

  10. I definitely don’t expect to see Zack Cozart start stealing bases again. I think that was a skill he tried to show off to get attention at the minor league level rather than something he’s particularly good at doing at the MLB level. If he was going to add basestealing to his resume I think he would have tried in 2012, when hitting at the top of the order.

    Cozart stole 4 bases last year? My response to that is that Joey Votto stole 16 bases in 2010. I think that’s just something that happens when opposing teams don’t take a guy seriously as a baserunner and don’t bother to hold him close. If Cozart starts running more other teams will quickly catch on and start throwing him out a lot… in my opinion. Maybe Cozart, Phillips, and Choo can all steal 20 bases, I just don’t expect any of them to have very high success rates. I expect all three of them to finish the season with more homerun than steals, but who knows.

    Drew Stubbs is gone, as are his stolen bases, but I don’t think that leaves any sort of basestealing void to fill. Maybe it would on a fantasy baseball team, but not on the Cincinnnati Reds.

    • I definitely don’t expect to see Zack Cozart start stealing bases again.I think that was a skill he tried to show off to get attention at the minor league level rather than something he’s particularly good at doing at the MLB level.If he was going to add basestealing to his resume I think he would have tried in 2012, when hitting at the top of the order.

      Cozart stole 4 bases last year?My response to that is that Joey Votto stole 16 bases in 2010.I think that’s just something that happens when opposing teams don’t take a guy seriously as a baserunner and don’t bother to hold him close.If Cozart starts running more other teams will quickly catch on and start throwing him out a lot… in my opinion.Maybe Cozart, Phillips, and Choo can all steal 20 bases, I just don’t expect any of them to have very high success rates.I expect all three of them to finish the season with more homerun than steals, but who knows.

      Drew Stubbs is gone, as are his stolen bases, but I don’t think that leaves any sort of basestealing void to fill.Maybe it would on a fantasy baseball team, but not on the Cincinnnati Reds.

      Cozart hardly showed any skill at stealing bases because he was hardly on base last season enough to show any skill at it. Even when Stubbs did reach base, Baker still didn’t send Stubbs enough, having him bunted over to second several times instead of having him try to steal it. It was apparent Baker doesn’t care much for stolen bases. His style of offense, much like he was, swing away, hit the ball, etc. He apparently forgot how important Davey Lopes was to his team.

      The Reds haven’t been a hustling team since 2010. And, much of that was on going from first to third and streching out doubles into triples, etc., not stealing bases.

    • @redsfanman: That’s a good point actually. And Choo isn’t just a decent lead-off hitter. He’s a good hitter and has some pop too.

      I don’t think anyone had really even considered this. Choo was spent most of his career hitting 3rd in the lineup. If there wasn’t a guy named Votto playing for the Reds he would probably be the best hitter on the team.

  11. Off-topic… Against Canada tonight we will see Latos facing Votto. Ok, Mat, nothing inside. And Joey, no hard drives back through the box!!

    • Off-topic… Against Canada tonight we will see Latos facing Votto. Ok, Mat, nothing inside. And Joey, no hard drives back through the box!!

      I thought Votto had previously said he wasn’t goign near this game as a player.

  12. Also a bit off subject but how do you suppose Mr Fay feels about the signing of C.Trent by his team?

    • Also a bit off subject but how do you suppose Mr Fay feels about the signing of C.Trent by his team?

      I think C Trent Rosecrans is effectively replacing Tom Groeschen, who helped cover the Reds last year – I don’t see it as a big change from John Fay’s perspective.

      • I think C Trent Rosecrans is effectively replacing Tom Groeschen, who helped cover the Reds last year – I don’t see it as a big change from John Fay’s perspective.

        But C.Trent is not just another guy stepping into the backup role. That is made very clear in his introductory blog piece. He is full time on the Reds beat, something he did quite well for several years as Fay’s competitor until the Post shut down.

        Of the two, which one would you prefer to hear on the 2nd inning Beat Reporter sound byte segment of the Reds radio broadcast? For me and I suspect many others, the answer is C.Trent. How this gets handled may be the first tip off of how this “beat coverage team” is going to work.

  13. A general response to some of the things posted here… 3.5 might be a little optimistic, but not very. Cozart was BABIP was 35 points too low last year. Given that he isn’t Paul Konerko on the bases, there’s no reason for that to persist. In terms of his minor league stats, he was exactly as good as Todd Frazier offensively. I’m projecting him a bit lower than that, but not much. Add his defense, and I think the Reds have a very solid shortstop for a while.

    Sorry I haven’t been more interactive on these. I’m an English teacher, so I can’t really post during the day.

  14. @RC: No. Dear lord no. My life is filled with enough grading. I have my linguistic pet peeves (proper use of less/fewer, for one), but I make far too many typos myself to get my hackles up over other comments.

  15. @redsfanman: So, in other words, Cozart has the advantage that he plays shortstop. Of course fans don’t expect a SS to hit as well as a 3B.

    Personally, I’m just hoping Cozart performs as well as 2012. It was well enough, even though he swings at everything. Maybe he can stop swinging at everything in his second season.

  16. I would be very satisfied if Cozart maintained his defensive play and offensive rates in the 8 hole this season. I really feel he should be batting after Hanigan; Why put a low obp/with pop before a high obp/no pop?

  17. I can definitely see Cozart’s confidence, and therefore numbers, improving if he isn’t foolishly placed at the top of the order this year…I know I got some grief last year for criticizing his and Stubbs’ performance at the top of the lineup – but face it – if you have the 2 lowest OBPs in the league and are stuck in the 1 and 2 spot, what is one to expect? I’m hoping with a rational manager, Stubbs may improve his performance with Cleveland, and with a lower spot in the order, Cozart may improve as well…

  18. @OhioJim: I like John Fay, but I know that sometimes I’m in the minority on that. I like him a lot more than I like Mark Sheldon, for one thing. I can’t recall hearing C Trent interviewed though, but I think he has the benefit of being a more nationally known guy after working for CBSSports.

    @steveschoen: I think Stubbs and Cozart both had problems with not reaching base enough, but Stubbs frequently tried to steal bases and provide a distraction on the base paths… while Cozart rarely showed himself as a threat to steal. I don’t think Dusty cares for caught stealings in front of Joey Votto… and I don’t blame him. I think when Billy Hamilton comes up you’ll have to reevaluate your thoughts on Dusty’s reluctance to send baserunners.

    @TC: Personally I think Shin-Shoo Choo’s offensive versatility has gone underrated or ignored – he’s just like Brandon Phillips in that way, except better. Phillips has hit 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the order but Choo is arguably better and more capable of filling any of those roles. Unlike, say, Michael Bourn and Joey Votto, he isn’t locked into a certain spot lineup because he’s a prototypical guy for that role, instead he hits leadoff because he’s so darn good at it.

    If the Reds needed a new #3 hitter to replace Joey Votto I think Choo would be the best option on the team – not Phillips, Bruce, Ludwick, or Frazier. Some people hoped the Reds would acquire Justin Upton, but I didn’t understand why – Choo is a better hitter, and in my opinion he’d also make a better cleanup hitter, if asked. Same with Giancarlo Stanton, Choo lacks Stanton’s power but is still a better hitter and a tougher out. And Choo will be the guy coming up to bat after the pitcher bunts a runner over.

    • @OhioJim: I like John Fay, but I know that sometimes I’m in the minority on that.I like him a lot more than I like Mark Sheldon, for one thing.I can’t recall hearing C Trent interviewed though, but I think he has the benefit of being a more nationally known guy after working for CBSSports.

      @steveschoen: I think Stubbs and Cozart both had problems with not reaching base enough, but Stubbs frequently tried to steal bases and provide a distraction on the base paths… while Cozart rarely showed himself as a threat to steal.I don’t think Dusty cares for caught stealings in front of Joey Votto… and I don’t blame him.I think when Billy Hamilton comes up you’ll have to reevaluate your thoughts on Dusty’s reluctance to send baserunners.

      @TC: Personally I think Shin-Shoo Choo’s offensive versatility has gone underrated or ignored – he’s just like Brandon Phillips in that way, except better.Phillips has hit 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the order but Choo is arguably better and more capable of filling any of those roles.Unlike, say, Michael Bourn and Joey Votto, he isn’t locked into a certain spot lineup because he’s a prototypical guy for that role, instead he hits leadoff because he’s so darn good at it.

      If the Reds needed a new #3 hitter to replace Joey Votto I think Choo would be the best option on the team – not Phillips, Bruce, Ludwick, or Frazier.Some people hoped the Reds would acquire Justin Upton, but I didn’t understand why – Choo is a better hitter, and in my opinion he’d also make a better cleanup hitter, if asked.Same with Giancarlo Stanton, Choo lacks Stanton’s power but is still a better hitter and a tougher out.And Choo will be the guy coming up to bat after the pitcher bunts a runner over.

      Stubbs hardly ever did provide any distraction. If he did, there would have been no reason for Baker to bunt him over, something he did several times.

      I’m not saying Stubbs couldn’t have been a distraction. Because, he surely could have been. He simply wasn’t.

      • Stubbs hardly ever did provide any distraction.If he did, there would have been no reason for Baker to bunt him over, something he did several times.

        I’m not saying Stubbs couldn’t have been a distraction.Because, he surely could have been.He simply wasn’t.

        I disagree, but I’m not even quite sure what you’re arguing – if it’s that Stubbs wasn’t a threat to steal bases because he didn’t choose to run enough or a suggestion that he didn’t reach base enough to provide a threat, or both.

        I’ll add in some comparisons to Cozart. Between 2009 and 2011 Stubbs put up an OBP between .321 and .329 each year, which is better than Cozart (.288) put up in 2012. Stubbs’ terrible 2012 season (.277 OBP) involved him reaching base at almost the same rate as Cozart. Popular opinion would suggest that Stubbs’ OBP was around zero though.

        Whenever Stubbs reach base he wasn’t Billy Hamilton (or rather what we hope Billy Hamilton to be) but he was still the best basestealer the Reds have had over the past decade, and I think he was treated accordingly… lots of throws over, pitchers keeping a close eye on him, focusing much more on the baserunner than they would with, say, Ryan Hanigan on base. Even if Stubbs didn’t run there was always a threat he would, which I think benefits the hitter. I respect that he would steal bases off the pitcher and catcher… while other guys, like Joey Votto in particular, occasionally steal (or stole before his knee injury) bases because guys flat out aren’t paying attention or aren’t holding him on.

        I definitely don’t see Cozart as becoming an aggressive basestealer who is a big threat to run. Maybe he’ll steal some bases on defensive lapses (or defensive incompetence), like Votto, but I think that’s it.

  19. Speaking of SS, Rafeal Furcal needs Tommy John surgery, he’ll be out for the season. Cozart knows a thing or two about that.

  20. @Matt WI: Furcal is out? Ouch! The Cardinals are deep, so I don’t see that impacting their team much, but Furcal is a good guy. You hate to see something like that end his career.

  21. @TC: Yes, Furcal was told he needed Tommy John and sought a 2nd opinion. That opinion confirmed that Tommy John surgery was probably his best option. There is certainly a chance he’ll be back next year but he’ll be a 36 year-old SS coming off Tommy John surgery. I’m not sure what kind of shot he’ll get. He’s not under contract for next year.

  22. Even if he can make a comeback it’ll be interesting to see if Furcal is finished as a shortstop… or if he’d moved somewhere like 2b. At least Cozart had the Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm.

    The Cardinals might be deep at some positions but I don’t think shortstop is one of them. Pete Kozma, Ronny Cedeno, and Daniel Descalso? Descalso hasn’t even played shortstop much. Looks they they should wish they had signed Cesar Izturis.

  23. @redsfanman: Yeah, you’re right. I was looking at their roster. They are a little light in the SS position, though I haven’t seen what they have in the minors.

    Really is a shame about Frucal.

  24. I suppose Ronny Cedeno could handle the job full time but he isn’t a plus fielder and his bat is iffy even for a SS.

  25. Frucal had a bit of a rough going the past two years. But his combined career WAR is 37.3. His projections were in the 1.5-1.8 by just about everyone for 2013. Even still, in my mind when comparing position to position, Frucal to Cozart I still thought the Cardinals had a bit of an edge at SS. Perhaps they didn’t.

    Cedeno is barely replacement level. Maybe Kozma can take the spot, but he is unproven and his hitting in the minors is not exceptional. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else ready enough to take the position. If they go outside to get help, they have plenty of currency in their farm system to get someone.

    Seems the advantage now goes to the Reds at SS. (Reds: 1st, 2nd, SS, RF, BP Cardinals: C, 3rd, LF, Bench Undetermined: SP, CF)

    • Cedeno is barely replacement Seems the advantage now goes to the Reds at SS. (Reds: 1st, 2nd, SS, RF, BP Cardinals: C, 3rd, LF, Bench Undetermined: SP, CF)

      Just curious: you give the Cardinals the edge in the rotation? If the Reds could go Cueto, Latos, Chapman, Bailey, Arroyo (in whatever order), you would favor Wainwright, Westbrook, Garcia and whoever else from among Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, etc. …

  26. Can St.L’s super-prospect Taveras play SS?? I know he is an OFer and likes RF, but their OF is pretty full and Beltran plays RF. I didn’t know if Taveras has any SS experience in his background. And St.L’s is looking for a spot for him to play.

  27. @TC: Fewer outs of all kinds, probably. The percentages of groundballs/line drives/flyballs he had are indicative of higher BABIP than he had.

    I mentioned Konerko because slow guys will sometimes have lower than expected BABIP because they are, well, slow and can’t get to first before they’re thrown out.

  28. http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/03/cardinals-dont-expect-to-pursue-shortstops-for-now.html

    Cesar Izturis probably won’t make the Reds but I’d probably be more optimistic about having Izturis or Jason Donald playing regularly than I would about anyone the Cardinals have (Kozma, Cedeno, Descalso).

    Even though the Cardinals have guys to trade for a shortstop I don’t think there will be many good ones available, let alone available for a reasonable price. It seems like they’ll stand pat with what they’ve got, for now. Maybe they’ll pick somebody up off the scrap heap who gets released by another team in the final days of spring training.

    I’m even happier about Zack Cozart now than I was before.

  29. Er, OK, the starting pitching is undetermined, it helps to read more closely.

    Guess it still looks like a Reds advantage to me, but lots of variables in play there …

  30. Losing Frucal may be bigger than losing Wainwright and Carpenter the past couple years. The more I think about it the worse it gets for the Cardinals. In past years the Cardinals were able to bounce back with a surprising new face to replace the missing ace. I guess I’m just shocked the Cardinals front office didn’t have a legitimate backup plan at SS. Maybe Kozma will surprise everyone like Garcia did when Wainwright went down or Lynn did when Carpenter went down.

    On the Reds front, if Jason’s projects are correct and Cozart is a 2.7 WAR player, I’m not certain the Reds wouldn’t have the same problem as the Cardinals. Cesar Izturis is the Red’s plan. Over a full season his WAR would project to be +/- 1.0.

    Next time Lance or Mo ask who will be the critical player for the success of the team, my thought will be Cozart.

  31. @TC: I disagree about losing Furcal being tougher than losing Wainwright or Carpenter, I think the Cardinals can bury a mediocre hitting replacement-level shortstop in the bottom of the lineup and still have a strong lineup. Losing Chris Carpenter, in my opinion, might not hurt the Cardinals early this season but I think the effects will increase as the season progresses, particularly when young starters get around 150 innings – or whatever it was when Lance Lynn’s season seemingly collapsed last year. The same thing could happen to Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, or any of the other young starters. Maybe even Lance Lynn again. Who knows what to expect out of the young guys in August and September?

    Personally I think that if anything happened to Zack Cozart Jason Donald would get the first shot to play everyday, not Izturis, with the expectation that Jason Donald might hit better. At this point I think Izturis is more like a successor to Juan Castro and Paul Janish as a slick fielding backup rather than an everyday player. I’d choose Donald or Izturis over the Cardinals’ candidates though.

  32. From an article I just found about losing Furcal, linked from MLBTradeRumors, there seems to be a remarkable amount of disagreement as far as how to proceed with Furcal out. Prospects are being mentioned, possible trades, free agent targets, all sorts of stuff.

    At least replacing Zack Cozart would be more straightforward with Jason Donald or Cesar Izturis being top candidates for the role.

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