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.