For at least the past five seasons, the Reds' short scene been a mix of veteran placeholders, shoddy guesswork and Barry Larkin pining. This blog was probably ground zero for Paul Janish boosters, so it's easy to be wary of/bitter toward Cozart as the next flavor-of-the-year.
Janish's fall from momentary-begrudging-acceptance as the starter last season hasn't been fun to watch. But there are some things that distinguish Cozart from his predecessor. For whatever it's worth, Cozart has the advantage in pedigree as a 2nd round draft pick and blip on some recent Top 100 prospect lists. More importantly, he's hit a lot better in the high minors than Janish, with only a slight (debatable) drop-off in defense. His 38 major league PAs last season can be tossed out, but offensive upside shouldn't be.
Behind Cozart, there's a line of guys who are either not ready for prime time or profile strictly as back-ups. Janish is still the best defensive short stop in the system, at least until Didi Gregorius can lift the cloud of mystique surrounding him. So even though it's going to make some fans crazy, he has a role to play beyond than being the standard-bearer for the weak ground-out. With a back-up in his mid-30s and a younger SS less than a year removed from surgery, seeing him back in Cincinnati is likely and just alright with me.
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||Zips projected OPS+
||S/BU?||PT (%)||Expected level on OD 2012
Ceiling: 85% of MLB starts
So far, Cozart seems to have no ill-effects from his 2011 season-ending Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm. He's waited patiently for his moment, entering his first season as the starter at age 26, but hopefully he won't overexert himself in his eagerness. I would hope he'd start almost every single day, but I expect Dusty to work Valdez in about once a week. At least for the first half of the season, that might be the prudent thing.
2012 ceiling: 30% of MLB starts
Valdez played most of his time as a Philly last season playing 2B, including 33 starts in Chase Utley's absence. He has a great arm that plays well at short stop, but his range may be diminished. Taken with a .254 /.300/.351 line over his last two seasons, he's within the margin of error for Paul Janish. He provides major-league depth at the position though, so as long as he remains the back-up, he won't be a negative.
2012 ceiling: 10% of MLB starts
2012 ceiling: 5% of MLB starts
Valaika played some short stop last season, but he's a dire emergency option there at this point. Previously: "Valaika sustained an ACL tear in mid-August of last year that sidelined him for the season. His health is up-in-the-air - and he's probably no longer a viable permanent replacement for BP - but he has (surprisingly) played over 80 MLB innings at 2B. He's both major-league ready and has some youth and upside to spare."
2012 ceiling: 1% of MLB starts
Gregorius had a lot of notice from prospects lists over the offseason. The Reds are excited enough about him that they seemed to forget the rules about adding players to the 40-man. He's a slick fielder with the arm of a Flemish Master, but he has to show he can hit for power outside Bakersfield.
2012 ceiling: 1% of MLB starts
Negron has the advantage of playing SS well enough to stick around, but he won't be able to keep his 40-man spot for much longer without hitting at least a little at AAA.