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.

20 Responses

  1. KyWilson1

    Is Jeffers the Brewers best pitching prospect that cant quit smoking the sticky?

    Seems like hes a humble guy with a drive to improve, which usually means hes a great teamate. I really hope he can be above a league average hitter. SS is the biggest weakness on the big club and if he can be an above average player there it would make the team very strong.

      • zblakey

        Jeffers was lights out as a high school pitcher here in Virginia. A little short, but man he could bring it to the plate, with movement. Sorry to see him get off track

      • KyWilson1

        Pretty sure hes one screw up away from being banned from pro baseball, sad when someone that talented just doesnt get it.

  2. Tom

    Cozart has a great opportunity staring his in the face. It will be interesting to see how much of a chance the Reds give him this spring. If he’s able to hit at all, how much pressure will this put on Janish?

  3. Beard

    Nice interview Doug. Hopefully you will be able to get some in season interviews too with your travels throughout the minors.

  4. Steve M.

    Good interview. I’m convinced that if the Reds aren’t contending at the trade deadline that Brandon Phillips will be traded, along with the veteran pitchers.

    If so, who becomes the franchise’s second baseman? Todd Frazier was my leading candidate but now it looks like he’ll play LF in the spring. If the Reds were planning on trading BP, I don’t think they would have Frazier in the OF. Although maybe they think he could become the starting LF for the Reds.

    Could Cozart become the Reds 2B of the future? In part, that depends on his role as a SS. Do you think he has the ability to play SS at the major league level?

    • Randy in Chatt

      I’m looking forward to Valaika being the Reds 2nd baseman. I know he had a horrible 2009 (except for the last 1/3) but he was a hot prospect and performed very well at all levels until starting off slowly at AAA. If he starts off hot and regains his status, I believe he will shoot up once again in the Red’s brass’ eyes. I think he is suited for 2B more than any other position. He also may end up being a utility type player for the Reds.

    • Doug Gray

      Cozart can play shortstop for sure. As for second base, I would probably look at Valaika this year to see how he is performing.

      • Alan Horn

        I agree. That’s where I would look first. At some point I think Frazier winds up at 3B or 2B. There could be injuries and/or trades that would be more likely to impact where Frazier plays.

  5. Krozley

    He may not be the best prospect in the Reds system, but Cozart may be the most important. Having a plus defender at short who could be solid at the plate with a little pop would be huge.

    • Alan Horn

      I agree and that’s why it is hard for me to understand why Sickels rated him so low. Boxberger gets rated higher just because of his arm. What has he done?(at least so far) I think some people rate the players high just because they are a #1 or #2 draft choice.
      Their rating has little to do with what they have actually done.
      Boxberger only has the AFL for a
      professional evaluation but those
      limited stats weren’t that good.
      I think all prospects should be rated lower on the chain until they have actually shown something.

      • KyWilson1

        If he was rating off draft status, Cozart was taken right around the same time as Boxberger. Boxberger has potential to be a #2 guy if he can harness all of his talents. Sickles just doesnt think Cozart can or will hit, and he can believe that all he wants, doesnt mean its true. My top 5 is Frazier, Chapman, Alonso, Leake, Cozart in that order.

      • Alan Horn

        By the same token, Sickels must believe Boxberger will eventually be able to throw strikes. It is highly subjective.

      • Doug Gray

        Ranking prospects isn’t about what you have done, its about what people believe you will do.

      • Alan Horn

        I see what you are saying but that is quite subjective. People can say anything they want
        and usually do to enhance a player’s trade value. I prefer the ranking of what is versus what might be. The subjective ranking is kind of like playing the stock market. It’s a much
        larger gamble to me.

  6. Johnny V

    Cozart can play short but does the number of errors he had last year scare you? Alot of them if I remember are throwing errors, and he had arm surgery once already. This is very alarming for myself and should be for all other reds fans out there. Doug overall a wonderful interview and what do you think of my comment?

    • Doug Gray

      Despite the errors, he still rated out as one of the best shortstops in the minor leagues. And really, for a shortstop that wasn’t actually a high error rate.

      • Alan Horn

        Sometimes the error rate can be higher because a
        player gets to some balls others wouldn’t. That could increase both fielding and throwing errors
        because of the tougher play.