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It appears another National League contending club is giving the starting shortstop keys to a relatively unproven youngster. As of now, Zack Cozart is slated to be at short on opening day for the Cincinnati Reds.

In 2007, the Reds drafted Cozart in the second round (they also drafted Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco – what a haul).

While he didn’t exactly rocket through A ball (he hit just .267/.317/.419 across two years), he found himself at AA in 2009 as a 23 year-old. He didn’t hit for a good average (.262), but walked 67 times (against 87 Ks) and posted a sublime .360 OBP.

He earned a promotion to AAA in 2010 and struggled a bit, hitting .255/.310/.416. That said, he hit 17 HRs and stole 30 bases (against just four caught stealings). He started 2011 at AAA, but was on the 40-man roster. At 25, Cozart was ready to show that the minors were a kids’ game. He hit .310/.357/.467 with seven HRs and nine SBs in just 77 games.

With the Reds SS sucking big ones, Cozart got the call. In his first game, on July 7, he went 1/3 with a run scored. Through his first 11 games, Cozart was batting .324/.324/.486 with two HRs. He didn’t walk and had six strike outs.

Unfortunately, he hyper-extended his left elbow just 16 days after his first start. His season was over and, on August 12, Cozart had Tommy John surgery. However, he is expected to be ready to go by spring training and, with relatively no in-house options, he has the pole position for the shortstop job.

Like Tyler Pastronicky, I think Cozart will struggle with the stick, perhaps batting .260. That said, he has some upside to the .280 or so range.

Unlike Pastronicky, I think Cozart is good for more power, potentially 15 or so HRs and could steal 17-20 bases. That looks a lot like Danny Espinosa to me. He has some risk, given the injury and lack of track record, however he also has some upside. As a flyer, late in drafts, Cozart makes a fantastic gamble.  Right now, he’s the 26th ranked ESPN shortstop between Yuniesky Betancourt and Alex Gonzalez (two guys you don’t want any part of), 188 overall at Fleaflicker, 185 at Grey’s top 300 for 2012 fantasy baseball.  Earlier in the offseason (back in November!), Grey went over his Zack Cozart fantasy.

  1. Hey y’all, anyone want to talk sleepers? draft strategy? etc?

  2. chata says:
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    hey Albert .
    i might come back and discuss sleepers and stuff with you ,
    but , 1st , i’d like to dedicate a song to my good friends vinko
    and Steve (the plucky one) … and to all the other “braun boys” out there :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0odXap-R7GI

    • @chata, Ha! that is more than welcome in this space. In fact, it should be incredibly encouraged!!!!

  3. JoeC says:
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    I completely 100% agree with this one, Albert (got to balance out the Ellsbury hate!).

    I had Cozart last year for those 16 days and they were beautiful. I thought to myself “Here’s the man who’s going to deliver me from that horrible Alcides Escobar pick”. Alas, it was not to be.

    I could see a lot of my teams with Scutaro and Cozart stackin’ SS and MI for me.

    • Albert Lang

      Albert Lang says:
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      @JoeC, Great points. I’m a solid Scutaro backer this year as well. I think Cozart is getting a little pub, but still remains unknown for a lot of folks.

      He could easily get to top 10 at that position

  4. chata says:
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    hey Albert :

    have you ever used a backwards (or bottom-up) approach , when
    developing your draft strategy ?

    by that , i mean , you profess to be a solid scutaro backer (for me it
    used to be hank blalock) … now i don’t know if you’re solidly backing him
    as your SS or MI , but let’s suppose it’s @ SS .

    now , knowing that you can get your SS (scutaro) with a 19th round pick ,
    use that as your starting point and let your draft strategy evolve from
    there ?

    • JoeC says:
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      @chata, Yep. I started doing this for the first time this year and it’s been pretty awesome. What I would do is take the results of an “expert draft” and then, as you say, go backwards, picking a guy I liked from each round.

      End result caused me to change my drafting strategy in the sense that I found I could get MI later in the draft, therefore there was little reason to use any picks on MIs during the first 10 rounds.

      It was already my plan to go heavy CI/OF early, but doing this reverse mock draft just reinforced that thought. My thinking now is that by the end of 5 picks, I should have my 1B, 3B, CI and OF1 positions filled. Not sure what I’m gonna do with that 5th pick yet! :) Maybe OF2.

      • chata says:
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        @JoeC,

        well , what’s intriguing (to me) about this approach is that a different starting point will lead to different paths .
        for you , it’s MI .
        for me it might be 3rd base .

        my experience has taught me , when using this opening strategy ,
        not to freak out when someone steps in and snipes your guy (in my case , hank blalock) 2 rounds earlier than you were holding out for .

        the draft “plan” is still intact , the only difference being that you have to live with statistical down-grade from blalock to joe randa , with little or no notice .
        that and the emotional heart-break of not being able to roster the one
        up-side guy that you identified from the outset .

        over-all , it breaks away from the pack, and the monotony, of building
        a draft strategy around albert pujols or hanley ramirez .
        “geez , i have the 2nd pick in the draft . whatsoever shall i do ?”
        (dum-de-dum …. boring .)

        • Albert Lang

          Albert Lang says:
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          @chata, sorry to be late to the party – was at my bestfriends 30th b-day happy hour….to be honest i never go into a draft with much strategy. i just want value and i’ll take it wherever i can get it, SP, 3b, SS.

          So, i dont really try to plan around what might be available and when. Who knows what some crazy person in your league will do. Rather, I’ll set tiers on what i want from my SS, MI, OF, etc. and make sure I get someone from those tiers.

          In practice, creating a bottom down draft strategy makes sense, but in practicality, it only takes one weirdo to change it.

          • JoeC says:
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            @Albert Lang, Well, mock reverse drafting is not the only component of a good drafting strategy. You also need to look at past drafts in your league to determine what the pattern is for your particular league. Do starters go earlier than their ranking (in general)? Do people wait for closers? Do people punt Catcher. And then of course study the site’s rankings that you will be using in order to have an idea of when particular players will be available.

            I think you are right in that you can’t have 1 or even 2 specific players on your target list and expect that they’ll magically be there when you expect them to be. For example, if my plan is to have Scutaro at SS and Cozart at MI, and I think both will be available post-Round 20, it might throw quite a wrench in my draft plans if one of those guys had been taken earlier than I expected, leaving me scrambling to find a replacement MI.

            You have to be comfortable picking from a long list of players. So if you’re comfortable with picking Scutaro or Cozart or Escobar or Aviles… well then you’re more likely to actually find one of those guys where you expect to.

            All that said, reverse mock drafting showed me that quality MIs, SPs and OFs would be available late, so I can use my earlier picks on skinnier positions.

            • Albert Lang

              Albert Lang says:
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              @JoeC, I’ve tried to do this and been burned. I think most people, nowadays, have their own draft sheet, which is impossible to anticipate. I’m typically way higher on some SPs than other in my league, but, invariably, they get picked higher than their ADP or rankings. Maybe it’s just my leaguemates using my information against me.

              There are just so many rounds and so many managers and those numbers increase the chance that whatever your plans are get ruined quickly.

              You are accurate to point out that you need lists of player targets rather than one specific target. Say you’re comfortable with Scutaro, Cozart, Aviles, Escobar and Peralta and are confident at least one will be there in round 20. then you can plan accordingly. However, if it is round 16 and four of the five are gone and there are a few MI spots not filled, you might have to make a move a bit early.

              Joe, you’re also right that quality MIs (owing to 2b being pretty deep this year) and SPs will be available. OF is a little thinner depending on how many you have to start and how many UTILs you have.

              Good points though. I just find not trying to create a strategy leaves me more nimble when it comes to the draft, however that could just be because once I have a plan i have to stick to it – so maybe it’s my kind of fantasy player that a strategy wouldnt work for, but certain strategies would work for other types of thinkers/people.

              • JoeC says:
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                @Albert Lang,
                Totally agree, Albert. There are as many draft strategies as there are drafters! And I’m definitely one of those who believes in over-prep. I’ve seen my results improve the more time I put into draft strategy, so for me it’s working out. For others, like yourself, you might do better as a gunslinger. Me, I need to have a plan or my draft quality goes South in a hurry! :)

  5. Alex says:
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    So more upside than who…at what tier do I stop?

    The Yunel Escobar/Jhonny Peralta’s of the world?

    If all goes well, is that a realistic expectation?

    • Albert Lang

      Albert Lang says:
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      @Alex, He does have more upside than those folks, of course a lot less certainty. I’d probably rather have him than Yunel, but Peralta can provide a solid average and good pop.

  6. Side says:
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    Am I crazy to think Aviles could b my starting SS in a 16 team league & b better the cozart, the escobars, peralta & guys like that? Valentine said Aviles was his starter & punto will b utility.

    • Albert Lang

      Albert Lang says:
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      @Side, As someone who was all over Aviles last year and was incredibly scorned, i dont think you’re crazy, but perhaps unwise.

      Aviles should get the bulk of the at bats there and if you believe in him a 10 HR, 10 SB campaign isnt out of the equation. However he cant get on base and will likely bat toward the bottom of the order so his counting numbers (runs, RBIs) might suffer considerably.

      There’s probably a 50% chance Aviles is in the top 16 at SS. But i’d much rather have Scutaro or Cozart. I’m not a big fan of the Esocbars but Yunel will be pretty solid. No problem with drafting Aviles as a back-up and trying to trade your starter if Aviles makes good on your projections.

  7. Side says:
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    Agreed but 20 SBs if he gets the ABs.

    • Albert Lang

      Albert Lang says:
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      @Side, I just dont think he’ll get the opportunity to run that much. His OBP is putrid for one, Ellsbury will likely be up when he is on base, and he’s doesnt have an elite SB rate at just 75%.

      is there a chance? Sure, but maybe a 20% one at most.

    • Albert Lang

      albert says:
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      @Side, FYI — looks like Aviles was just traded to the Rays which I think kills his value.

  8. Side says:
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    & I prefer the KC Escobar over Tor. Again more upside. U need players to hit 2 win. The other Escobar has not chance of stealing 35.

    • Albert Lang

      Albert Lang says:
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      @Side, Just because Alcides is fast doesnt mean he has a chance of stealing 30+ bases. His OBP has been below .300 the last two seasons. He is 40/65 in SB attempts which is no great shakes either. Even if he gets to 30+ SBs, his batting average will render them useless.

      Yunel will add a little pop, some Runs and RBIs but not kill your average. I dont like him, but I hate Alcides.

  9. Side says:
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    They start punto then? Wtf?

    • Albert Lang

      albert says:
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      @Side, maybe they want to go all glove and just play Iglasies. He has a MLB glove, and his bat can’t be that much worse than Punto’s.

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