With just two days left until Cincinnati Reds pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, it’s fair to start wondering about which spring battles will be the most intense. One incumbent who might find it hard to maintain his starting spot is shortstop Zack Cozart, Number 2 on our Countdown Team.
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The Reds picked Cozart in the second round of the 2007 draft, and he spent four years in the minors before making his Major League debut in 2011. From the beginning, Cozart was a plus fielder, but his bat held him back.
Not much has changed since he made it to the Riverfront, as he is generally mentioned as one of the top two or three fielding shortstops in the game, but has been a major hindrance to the Reds’ offense when he is at the plate.
In three years of regular playing time, Cozart has batted .243 with a .646 OPS, “good” for a 77 OPS+. He has managed to slug 33 home runs in that time, including a high of 15 in 2012, but hasn’t contributed much else on offense.
The real problem for Cozart this spring is that youngster Eugenio Suarez is in the fold after coming over from the Detroit Tigers as part of the Alfredo Simon trade in December. While Suarez has not been much of a hitter to this point, either, he is just 23 years old and has time on his side.
For Cozart, at age 29 (he’ll be 30 in August), this Spring Training could be the most important ever.