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The Red Report - Zack Cozart

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Zack Cozart will bring the veteran presents this season, but will he end the season in a Reds uniform?

MLB: Cincinnati Reds-Media Day
So veterany!
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

Position: Shortstop
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6' 0", Weight: 195 lb.

High School: Collierville High School (Collierville, TN)

College: University of Mississippi (SEC All-Freshman, All-SEC team)

Organizational Information

Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2nd round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft
Debut: July 7, 2011
Rookie Status: Exceeded rookie limits during 2012 season
2017 Contract Status: 1 yr/$5.33 million
Free Agent: 2018

Transactions

June 7, 2007: Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2nd round of the 2007 amateur draft. Signed June 21, 2007.

Career Stats

2016 Charts/Graphs/Heat Maps/stuff etc.

Fun with Scouting GIFs!

I don’t remember this, but it happened because it’s on the internet:

But, then this happened. Nobody makes Zack Cozart bleed his own blood:

2017 Projections

SOURCE PA HR R RBI SB AVG/OBP/SLG DEF fWAR
SOURCE PA HR R RBI SB AVG/OBP/SLG DEF fWAR
Depth Charts 560 14 64 57 5 .247/.298/.393 12.2 1.7
Steamer 480 12 50 47 4 .247/.299/.390 10.2 1.4
Fans 538 15 52 59 4 .252/.310/.404 12.9 2.2
ZiPS 443 11 54 46 4 .248/.298/.396 11 1.5

Outlook

For as long a I’ve been doing this, I’ve been writing this particular report and calling for whatever season we’re heading into as being the last for “Zack Cozart - Reds starting shortstop.”

I’m nothing if not consistent.

It’s a little different this time, of course, because Zack is heading into his walk year, and the Reds seemingly have his replacement waiting in the wings. Jose Peraza will take the place of the dearly departed Brandon Phillips as Cozart’s DP partner for the 2017 season, but all signs point to Peraza being the eventual heir to the shortstop throne, what with Dilson Hererra taking Peraza’s spot as “probably ready blocked infielder” at AAA.

The Reds also judged Cozart’s market at the trade deadline in 2016, seemingly having something very close to a deal with the Mariners before it came undone in the 11th hour for reasons unknown (and I’m not about to believe it’s because the Reds weren’t competent enough to work on two deals at once, so get outta here with that).

This year, rather than speculate on whether or not this will be Zack’s final season with the Reds (it very likely will be), we turn our attention to something else: will Zack even finish the season in Cincinnati? Hell... there’s a non-zero chance he won’t even start it, depending on how injuries figure into the Spring Training/World Baseball Classic season.

Cozart’s been a 2+ bWAR player in three of his four full seasons with the Reds, and even reached the two win mark in his injury shortened 2015 season when he seemed to be on the cusp of a true breakout season before shredding all of the ligaments in his knee.

Cozart bounced back from the injury in 2016, though lingering soreness kept him from playing as much as he and the team would’ve liked. Even then, he recorded 500+ PAs. He picked up where he left 2015 off at the plate, carrying a damn fine .821 OPS through the first two months of the season. Cozart boasted a .799 OPS at the All-Star break.

The wheels came off a bit thereafter, as Zack would produce only a .223/.291/.312 slash after the break. That’s excusable when you consider a few factors: he’d not made it through June the previous year because of the catastrophic knee injury. The fact that he made it back by Opening Day and played as well as he did after that was a heroic effort.

That being said, the leg issues were an issue later in the season. A sore knee and a balky achilles limited Cozart to only 107 PAs after the trade deadline, and Zack played his last game in 2016 on September 10th. That’s obviously not ideal for what he might bring back in a trade, but it’s certainly understandable when evaluating the impact the player made in particular season.

Regardless of the leg issues, he didn’t take a step back in the field, which has always been his calling card. According to UZR, Cozart has his best season yet. His best season coming in his age 30 year after a catastrophic injury at one of the most demanding positions in the game. That’s promising for his trade value.

Problem is, we seem to be living in the Golden Age of middle infielders. A few years ago, even with the injury and the bad second half, a shortstop who could put up a wRC+ of 91 while posting a UZR/150 of 14.6 might’ve been a hot asset for a team needing contributions up the middle. It’s just hard to find logical suitors at this point.

In 2016, there were 23 shortstops in the league that put up a season of at least 2 fWAR, minimum 200 PAs. 23 players who played shortstop in 2016 put up a better wRC+ than the 91 that Cozart posted in 2016. There just isn’t a need around the league.

It’s all going to come down to which contending team gets bit hardest by the injury bug. At some point, the Reds have to seriously consider if re-signing Zack Cozart isn’t in their best interest.

Keep in mind that before Zack Cozart arrived, this was a team that was willing to roll into season after season with over-the-hill shortstops at a time when it mattered more. Orlando Cabrera. Edgar Rentaria. Wilson Valdez. If you can’t extract value out of him at the deadline, and you don’t want to see him walk for nothing... why not offer Cozart a contract? He’ll be “old” for a shortstop, but that’s never stopped them before, and he’ll be better than any name I just mentioned. He’s been a Good Red when it’s been difficult to find those over the last three seasons, and a calming influence on the younger, (hopefully) better prospects rising through the system.

They’ll need players like that, and they’ll have them even if they don’t re-sign Cozart. Why not him?

There are a lot of moving parts here, and it’s very likely that Cozart will eventually be traded. It’s very likely that it’ll be good for the team.

It doesn’t mean I’ll like it. I, for one, will miss Zack Cozart when he’s gone.