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Sunday, May 28, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: ZACK COZART SS CINCINNATI REDS

When you once have had the label of fantasy baseball sleeper early in a career and then proceed to take a few extra seasons to find your major league bearings, often what happens is that player becomes someone who is widely looked over in yearly leagues.  When expectations don't meet the initial excitement, these hitters and pitchers can sink to a status where those who take part in fantasy baseball reflexively look past that individual in moving onto the next great and promising prospect.  As a result, some truly good value seasons and performances can be lost in the murkiness and in the process, represent a lost opportunity to strike with an ascending player.  This exact scenario is unfolding now with Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart who for a number of reasons, has not gotten near the pop he deserves given the production he has put forth this season.

Taking a quick history lesson on Cozart, he certainly was a young player who had some fantasy baseball sleeper status attached to his name going back to 2012 when he came out of the gates with 15 home runs in his first major league season.  Also having shown some stolen base ability, Cozart became a sleeper candidate given the shallow nature of shortstop and the possibly power/speed game.  Alas Cozart would go on to engineer three straight dud seasons that resulted in home run totals of 12, 4 and 9; while also putting forth ugly averages of .254 .221, and .258.  As a result, Cozart became persona non grata in fantasy baseball as 2016 came around.  It was that season where Cozart began to show that maybe the proverbial light bulb had gone on as he hit a career-best 16 home runs, scored 67 runs, and stole 4 bases in just 508 at-bats.  Injuries put a cap on the fun somewhat but Cozart has now made it two seasons in a row of very good offensive production by coming out of the gates in 2017 with a .355 average and 5 home runs and 25 RBI in 172 at-bats.  Now a veteran at the age of 31, Cozart has been hitting ropes all year and has gained some daily status in deeper mixed leagues.  As always though, let's dig in on the numbers and find out what is up.

First things first, the .355 average is way above anything Cozart has ever accomplished previously and one look at his insanely lucky .393 BABIP tells you why he is where he is currently with that number.  Still Cozart has become a much more selective hitter this season, raising his BB/9 rate from 7.3 in 2016 all the way up to 12.7 in 2017.  With a decent 17.3 K/9 rate, Cozart has absolutely made some inroads with the average. His power is also coming in at a nice level and being in his prime, some growth there was no shock.  While he is not a burner Cozart can pick up some steals now and again to help the overall profile.

So when you put it all together, Zack Cozart is doing his thing again as a quality mixed-league fantasy baseball shortstop who few are even talking about.  He should be picked up in all leagues and started continually while he is going good the way he is now.  While a major breakout is unlikely, a career-best season looks to be realistic.


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