Confession, I like Zack Cozart more than his performance merits. I don’t know why, I just do. Maybe it’s just nice to have a regular shortstop for the first time since Barry Larkin.

But he’s not a great player. This is his age-28 season, and at best, he rates as a 2.5 win player. That’s solid. Every winning team has those guys, but he’s average and average is as good as he’s every likely to be. Here’s my best guess for him…

Zack Cozart
2013 Slash Line: .254/.284/.381
2014 Projection: .255/.290/.390

2013 WAR: 1.9
2014 Best Guess WAR: 2.5
Projected Difference: +0.6 WAR
2014 Floor: 1.0 WAR
2014 Ceiling: 3.5 WAR

Cozart is a player with a reasonably high floor and a low ceiling. His defense is good enough, that it’s almost impossible for him to be valueless, but his offensive skills are limited enough that he’s very unlikely to ever put up an all-star caliber season.

I refuse to list WARs that don’t end in 0 or 5, but I was tempt with Cozart. I think he’ll be somewhere between 2.0 and 2.5, but closer to the latter than the former. His offense gets the “he’s still young” bonus for one more year.

Mostly, we should all be happy that he figures to hit seventh or eighth, which is where he belongs on any good team, and that he’ll be out there grabbing everything that comes his way at short.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at

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  1. I am a Cozart fan as well, probably because he is what he is, solid defensive SS and as healthy as anyone on the team. His numbers at the plate in August and September last year were noticeably up, which was good since DatDude regressed so far. Is it too late in his career to hope that he might stay at that level this year? A .280/.315/.400 split for a 7-8 hitter wouldn’t be terrible?

    • @pmedwards: I think this is a great question and I am wondering the same thing. Was the big August/September a statistical anamoly or a precursor to a big year? I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

  2. Count me among the doubters. Cozart is (barely) serviceable and hopefully they are looking for a replacement sooner rather than later.

    I think he lacks something which is very important for SS’s and basically can’t be taught. That is the baseball instinct or sense to “just know” when something strange is going on and to be in the right spot at the right time to compensate.

    I’ll post one example, that being the pop fly last year that Frazier lost on the infield. Everyone else on the infield seemed to have a sense what was and had happened except for Cozart. He stood out at his position literally just watching seemingly clueless then came running in a day late and dollar short.

    You watch the games day in and day out and too many times he is watching an unmade play he could have been in the middle of. And a number of times it could be observed that other infielders (Frazier, BP for the most part) seem to be shooting him long glances after plays that went awry or did not get made on which Cozart was “in the area” to borrow an old term from football.

    To quit on a positive note, Cozart does make the routine plays almost flawless. The high floor, low ceiling comment was probably a very apt description of him.

    • @OhioJim: Hey Ohio, not a fan of Cozart either, as grew up with Davey C. and Barry Larkin. On his best days Cozart could tote either players jock – and that’s about it.

    • @OhioJim: I’m not sure I fully agree but he did seem to not have his head in the game more than I would have liked to have seen last year. My dad noticed it too.

      • @LWBlogger: I believe that Bryan addressed and quashed those types of problems with the pitching staff. I don’t see any reason that the same won’t happen with the position players with Bryan at the helm.

        • @Shchi Cossack: If the issue is as simple as focus yes. If it more about an overall sense of the game it is not so simple. If one doesn’t have it by Cozart’s age they aren’t suddenly going to acquire it.

          In large part I think some guys’ minds just work differently; and, the way they inherently think allows them to “see” the entire game/ field in their minds with the plethora of possibilities; and, tghey just know intuitively when to be in a certain spot or do a certain thing.

  3. I used to be more negative about Cozart than most, but I must say his last 2 months of 2013 have given me a glimmer of optimism for him going into 2014.

    If he can pick up where he left off last year, he might actually be a contributor on offense instead of a “blind squirrel finding a nut” kind of hitter.

    Now, if he could only learn to take a walk every now and then…..

    • Now, if he could only learn to take a walk every now and then…..

      Like x100.

      • @Steve Mancuso: I read today where Billy Hamilton was talking about not going up there looking to hack at the first available pitch. That has got to come from coaching and is not something we’ve seen the past few years from the Reds. Maybe, just maybe, we can hope that this philosophical change moves through the entire lineup.

        • @Kyle Farmer:

          Now there’s a thought.

          If Cozart and Frazier BOTH can learn to walk, we might really be onto something!

        • @Kyle Farmer:

          @Steve Mancuso: I read today where Billy Hamilton was talking about not going up there looking to hack at the first available pitch.

          I read this too, but he emphasized in the first AB…the question that immediately came to my mind was “why especially the first AB?”? And I’ll go ahead and pick a nit after 2 games of ST…his bunting hasn’t looked good, bunted twice, one to the first baseman and one right back to the pitcher…one on a 3-1 pitch.

      • @Steve Mancuso: Must be a happy man, Steve – but the contract Homer just signed will handcuff the Reds for years to come. So sad.

    • @CI3J: Not going to happen. Cozart’s approach pretty much is what it is at this point. I don’t see his walk-rate shooting up.

  4. Many tend to forget about what got Zach up here in the first place. He just wasn’t in your regular zone. He was hitting 310/357/467 in 77 games for Louisville and kept that up here until he took an errant throw from Votto. If it wasn’t for his bat at that time, we still have Janish here probably.

    Now, I don’t expect him to bat 310/357/467 the entire time. But, I would think he could do better than the 254/284/381 he did last season, like when he batted 282/313/403 from August 1 to the end of last season. Especially since he is now with a manager who hopefully can manage his players (aka what place in the batting order they belong, how much time they are going to play before taking a rest, etc.) better than the last manager we had.

    • @steveschoen: Here is why you should not get excited about the last couple of months for Cozart:


      April: .198/.208/3.6
      May: .317/.278/4.6
      June: .284/.248/3.6
      July: .284/.230/4.2
      Aug: .324/.282/6.5
      Sept: .316/.281/2.9

      When he had a good end of the season, his OBP was still only 30 points over his BA. Pretty much all of his value was driven by a big jump in his BA.

      Then you look at his BABIP over the course of the year, and it’s pretty clear that his BA was tracking with his BABIP, and the last two months he was just having a lot of hits fall in.

      It’s not like he really changed his approach or anything. So he’ll probably have an OBP 30-40 points over his BA, and a BA around .250, that will depend on his BABIP.

      • @al: And, that’s still 30 points better than what Jason is predicting above.

        • @steveschoen: I’m not sure I follow. I’m saying BA of around .250, so add 30 or 40 points to that and you get .280 or .290 which is right on what Jason is predicting.

          I would love to see Cozart do better, but one of three things will have to happen for that to happen:

          1. He changes his approach and/or swing to make harder contact, which drives his BABIP up.

          2. He strikes out less, which brings his BA closer to his BABIP.

          3. He walks more, which pushes his OBP further above his BA.

          Now, maybe the last two months of last year were signs of #1, time will tell. My guess is it was natural fluctuation (i.e. luck).

          • @al: You need to see the slashline again, al. Jason wrote 255/290/390. The 255 is the BA.

          • @steveschoen: But Al predicted a batting average of .250 and said to add 30 to 40 points to that for Cozart’s On Base Percentage, which would be the .290 area. You maybe misread his original prediction. Al thinks the same as Jason and so their slash lines do match up.

  5. Every team needs solid glue type players. Everybody on the team is never going to be an all star, 1975 isn’t coming back (How I wish). So from what I see Cozart fits that diiscription, good teammate shows upper vey day and works.

  6. The one thing I would add is that Cozart has is usually good for 30+ doubles, and that’s a nice little bonus to the pretty classic weak bat/good glove SS.

  7. I tend to think Cozart has more of an upside offensively. I’m sure it varies from batter to batter, but if batting order really makes a difference from the player’s perspective, I’m optimistic. It’s generally seemed among RLN conventional wisdom (with which I tend to agree) that for most of Cozart’s career he’s been miscast with Baker. Maybe some BP lineup revelations will lead to bigger things from him. Regardless, I don’t see him as a detriment to the team.

  8. Given what he is paid, I can definitely live with what Cozart brings, as long as he hits down in the order. As they say, sorta, “A run saved is a run earned.” Pretty soon he peobably won’t be worth what he will make and I definately don’t see him staying a Red after he becomes a free agent so the Reds need to get a viable alternative in the pipeline soon.

    • @CI3J: And not get to see Fraizer hit one off his shoetops, one handed, over the fence?@HOF-13: Too early to tell for certain, but there appears to be some people in the low minors, who could be pretty good. At this point, I would not see anything wrong in looking to draft one.

  9. Cozart is just fine for now and probably the next couple years but do the Reds have any young shortstops coming up that can supplant him then? I haven’t really heard of any up and coming shortstops since Cozart.

  10. I’m OK with Cozart for the time being.

    But since the topic is the shortstop position, I see the Diamondbacks are looking to deal either Didi or Owings & they are looking for a young catcher. I wonder if they would be interested in Barnhart? Get Didi back, have him be a backup SS/2B & have him around in case of an injury to Zack or BR, or if BP gets traded. From what I’ve read they are higher on Owings. I know, fantasy baseball trade. But since I don’t see us having a decent shortstop in the pipeline for a while, why not dream up a trade?

    • @concepcion13: The idea isn’t bad but the way they ended up with no alternative to Cozart was moving a couple of other guys (Didi one of them) before Cozart was clearly established.

      Applying the same thinking to the catcher position, they have already moved one alternative to Meso (Grandal). Maybe it would best to hold onto the next one (Barnhart) until after this season when (hopefully) they will know for sure Meso is their guy at least through his arb years.

      Perhaps they could cobble up some other low risk deal to bring Didi back if he really is available.

  11. I like Cozart. I believe his offense will be more reflective of Aug. and Sept. last year.
    That said, the Reds have two first round pick and one should be spent on a SS. I found out today that the comp. pick from Choo is #30 overall, #2 of the comp. picks. As it stands now, the Reds have the #19 and #30 picks overall. Pick up a top-notch college SS and a power hitting corner OF or 3B.

  12. […] Votto Brandon Phillips Zack Cozart Ryan Ludwick Billy Hamilton Jay Bruce Todd Frazier Devin Mesoraco The Bench Top of the […]

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at


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