Zack Cozart was the Reds 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft. After spending all of 2008 in Dayton he jumped over High A to play the season out in Carolina with the Mudcats. In 541 plate appearances the shortstop hit .262/.360/.398 with 63 walks and 87 strikeouts. Zack was nice enough to take some time to answer some questions with me about a week ago.
RML: What kind of adjustments did you make in 2009 at the plate that led to a more than doubling of your walk rate against 2008?
ZC: First off, I had lasik eye surgery in the fall of 2008. It definitely helped, but I think the main thing I started doing was just seeing more pitches. I wasn’t as anxious to hit the first pitch like I did in the past. This, a lot of the time, got me into better hitting counts. I also think as the year went on I was getting more respect as a hitter by the other teams and started seeing more breaking pitches which obviously led to more walks and better counts.
RML: What kind of things do you do during the offseason that aren’t baseball related?
ZC: When it comes to non-baseball activities I would say I love to play with my two dogs, one named Champ (Miniature Doberman) and one named Sport (Weimaraner). Also, I like to golf a little bit, and obviously try to catch up from lost time with the family since I don’t get to see them too much during season.
RML: What do you do that is baseball related in the offseason in order to get ready for the next season?
ZC: I started to lift weights and get in shape a couple weeks after the fall league. I have a weight room in my house so it’s easy to get up and workout in your own environment. I just started to hit and throw about 2 weeks ago, and I’ll be on my way to Arizona around Feb. 10 just to get out there and get a feel for everything.
RML: You jumped over Sarasota going straight from Dayton to Carolina. What was the biggest adjustment that you needed to make with that large of a jump?
ZC: In my eyes, I was ready for AA. I didn’t know I would jump over Sarasota, but going into spring training my goal was to be in AA. I thought I made huge strides when it comes to hitting in Dayton in 2008. The biggest adjustment I think was the relief pitching. The starters were obviously good as well, but guys coming out of the pen were overall pretty nasty.
RML: You hurt your hand in the Arizona Fall League a few weeks in after hitting very well. How is the hand feeling now?
ZC: I actually hurt my thumb the last game in Carolina, then hurt it a little worse in the fall league. I am feeling great right now. I have been hitting without pain, so I am hoping and I think that my thumb is good to go.
RML: What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses in your game?
ZC: Well I think my greatest strength is my defense. Definitely did not play defensively like I should and can in 2009, but I feel that is my greatest attribute. I don’t have top notch speed, but I hold my own and think I am an instinctual baserunner. When it comes to hitting, I think I have improved 100% since being drafted, which I credit to Ronnie Ortegon, our hitting coordinator and Darren Bragg, my hitting coach for two years in Dayton. I have learned to use the whole field, and to work the count. A weakness of mine is that I strike out a little more than I want to. I think it works both ways when you work the count, sometimes you get ahead in the count, and sometimes you get behind pretty quick which can lead to strikeouts. I also, for some reason, struggled at the end of the season in 2009 unlike the 2008 season where I finished strong. I look to repeat my 2008 season and finish this season strong.
RML: Who was the most impressive pitcher you have faced so far as a pro?
ZC: The most impressive pitcher I have faced as a pro has to be Jeremy Jeffress. The guy looks like he is barely throwing and he hits 97, 98, 99 as a starter. I did get a hit off of him though.
RML: Do you have any goals set for the 2010 season?
ZC: I definitely have goals set for 2010, and my main goal is to be in a Cincinnati Reds uniform at some point this year!
I just wanted to thank Zack again for taking the time to do this. Best of luck this season.