For some reason I have to write about Zack Cozart every year. I've got nothing against Zack. He doesn't hate puppies, he didn't break my sister's heart, and I'm sure he's an all-around nice fella if you get to know him. But I do have one major problem with Cozart, an issue that most of you just don't seem to get, and that's the fact that he's a very poor offensive player, and worse yet, not a very productive one in the fantasy game. For the 436th time, and hopefully the last (wishful thinking), here's why.
I wrote the following back on January 2nd, 2013, nearly a year ago to the day of this piece. And I quote, well, myself.
“During a five year run in the minors, 506 games worth of action, Cozart hit .270. Yippee. Cozart got on base at a .332 clip. Wowzahs. Cozart had a SLG of .421. Wow, I’m about to fall off my chair since that number is so impressive. Nothing, n-o-t-h-i-n-g, in that line should make anyone excited. The fact is the bat he flashed in the minors was the average man’s average. Yes he did bat .310 as a 25 year old at Triple-A over 77 games in 2011, but that was the first time he showed anything significant as a hitter.”
So the minor league track record says – blah.
The big league track record? Here are his slash lines for his three seasons.
2011 (37 at-bats): .324/.324/.486 2012 (561 ABs): .246/.288/.399 2013 (567 ABs): .254/.284/.381
Toss out the '11 numbers, it was only 11 games, and you've got a batter who is, wait for it, atrocious. Hell, add in the 37 at-bats from 2011 and he's still abysmal. How bad is Cozart? I'm really going to try to make a point here so that I won't be getting Cozart questions throughout the coming year, so here goes.
During his career the average NL batter has hit .259. The average NL SS has hit .255. He has hit .252. He's not even NL average in average.
During his career the average NL batter has a .325 OBP. The average NL SS has a .310 OBP. He has a .287 OBP. He's not NL average in OBP.
During his career the average NL batter has a .407 SLG. The average NL SS has a .377 SLG. He has a .393 SLG. He's not NL average in SLG though he sneaks every so slightly ahead of the average shortstop.
Shall I go on? Apparently I need to so I will.
Among batters who have at least 1,250 plate appearances since the start of the 2011 season here is what we find with Cozart.
Why are you interested in Cozart again? Oh that's right, he's a huge power hitter. Wait a second, no he's not. Cozart has 29 homers in his career. J.J. Hardy hit 25 homers last season. Cozart owns a 35 percent fly ball rate an a nine percent HR/F rate for his career. Welcome to Average City Mr. Cozart we've got a nice apartment for you.
Oh that's right, he's a speedster on the base paths. No, wait, that's the other guy on the Reds who used to play shortstop but is now in the outfield, Billy Hamilton. Cozart has a total of four steals in his career. At least he's never been caught.
It must be that he's a big time run producer. No, that's not it either. Over the last two seasons he had a total of 98 RBIs. That ties him for 156th in baseball with Todd Helton and it's one less than Erick Aybar.
The only thing, and I mean the only thing that provides value with Cozart is his runs scored mark which has been 72 and 74 the past two seasons. Unfortunately he really shouldn't have had either of those numbers. Why is that? Have you been reading this piece? He doesn't get hits. He doesn't hit for power. He doesn't get on base. He doesn't steal bases. So why the solid runs scored marks? Because Dusty Baker has, moronically, continued to use Cozart, who can legitimately be called one of the 20 worst offensive, full-time players in baseball, at the top of the Reds' order (Baker's gone now). Well at least he pulled back on that somewhat last year. In 2012 Cozart hit first or second in 129 of his 138 games. Last year that number was pulled back to 64 games hitting second and none leadoff (he hit seventh 64 times and 7th seventeen times). And that's how Cozart should be used, as the 7th or 8th hitter. If that's the case in 2014 he has no chance to improve upon his runs scored total (he started an equal number of games in the #2 and #7 holes in 2013 and he scored 13 fewer runs batting 7th even though his OPS was .029 points higher in that spot).
Back to the point I made at the beginning of this piece – I've got nothing against Cozart. At the same time I'm totally flummoxed as to why people continue to seem interested in adding his services to their fantasy squad. In NL-only leagues he's a fine add, he plays daily and that helps with the counting categories, but in mixed leagues chances are you're actually harming your team more than you're helping it if you're pencil Zack Cozart into your lineup. How is that for some holiday cheer?
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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