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March 18, 2012 posted by Chuck Anderson

Fantasy Baseball 2012 Off the Grid: Zack Cozart

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Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds

Vital Stats:  MDC Rank:  346, 22nd SS, drafted in 90.1% of leagues

23rd SS in Yahoo, drafted in 14%

24th SS in ESPN, drafted in 6.0%

This is not the first article hailing Zack Cozart as a sleeper.  His 90% draft rate on Mock Draft Central shows the love he is getting from the fantasy community.  Depending on the collective knowledge of any particular league, owners may need to move before the very last rounds to grab him.  It may seem too much of a fuss over a player with eleven games of big league experience, but if he can approximate his Triple-A numbers he will be a steal.

Cozart played in Double-A in 2009 and recorded ten HR and ten SB.  He moved to Triple-A the next year and homered seventeen times while stealing 30.  He played 77 games in the minors in 2011, managing seven HR and nine SB while improving his OBP 47 points.  Offensive production does not always translate from the minor leagues to the majors but there are reasons to be optimistic in Cozart’s case.  Cincinnati is a hitter friendly ballpark, ranking in the top ten for home runs each of the last five seasons in ESPN’s Park Factors.  In his first taste of big league action his K% and ISO did not stray from Triple-A levels.  He has never struck out in 20% of plate appearances as a professional and his swinging strike rate in Cincinnati was a tiny 4.8%.  Only eighteen out of 145 qualified hitters maintained a Swstr% under 5.0% last year.  Finally, Cozart has an 86% success rate on steals since 2009.  He is not reckless on the bases and should have the freedom to run, although if he hits from the eighth slot he could be restricted.

Cozart’s debut season was cut short by a ligament injury to his non-throwing elbow.  It is fully healed and he is preparing for 2012 like any other position player, appearing in ten Spring Training games thus far.  His .906 OPS is not predictive, but reveals a certain comfort level at the plate.

Last year only four shortstops (Asdrubal Cabrera, Jimmy Rollins, Starlin Castro, Erick Aybar) reached double digits in both home runs and stolen bases.  It is very reasonable to project this for Cozart, and he has far greater potential in steals.  He could finish in the top ten at the position.

Cozart easily represents better value than Jed Lowrie (344) and Sean Rodriguez (343), the shortstops drafted immediately in front of him.  He is also worth taking over Cliff Pennington (281) and Yunel Escobar (209).

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