(Part Three in a continuing series on the New-Look Phillies, and the possibility that they could soon join the ranks of contenders in the National League.)
If you're still following along, today I take a look at a prospect considered rather “can't-miss” by some of the more optimistic fans, though he has his own flaws. Then again, who doesn't?
Dylan Cozens (.210, 27, 75 in Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Ah, yes. Here's an example of how raw power can carry a prospect when all other tools are average or perhaps below-average. But it's a lot of raw power.
Cozens has the sort of power that drives scouts into a frenzy, but while whiffs are a concern with most power bats, they nearly eclipse all the production that he could offer at the big-league level. When he popped 40 bombs in Reading in 2016, everyone took notice. Of course, he also went down on strikes 186 times, so there's that, though he still managed to bat .276 and posted a .941 OPS for the year.
A note about the home field in Reading: while Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium was tops in 2016 in HR/G with 1.526 (first among EL ballparks) and has consistently been top of the pile in terms of home run production over the past three years, it was closer to the middle of the pack than the top of it in terms of runs/game (1.072, fifth among EL teams). However, the Fightin' Phils' offensive-minded park notwithstanding, it doesn't hurt to have talented hitters, either.
It's true that he was paired up with Rhys Hoskins in the batting order, and 33 year-old ML vet Jake Fox hit 23 bombs of his own in that lineup. But it's also important to keep in mind that he was 22 years old in 2016, more than 2 years younger than league average, and in Double-A for the first time.
The Phillies' 2nd-round pick in 2012, his power has always been his carrying tool, and it manifested with a vengeance in 2016. Cozens carried much of that production over to this year, when he hit 27 homers and drove in 75 runs for Lehigh Valley, though his K rate climbed even higher (35.8% in 2017; 31.7% in 2016). He'll draw enough walks to make you forget about all the whiffs, at least for a while, a mix of selectivity at the plate and pitchers who are into self-preservation.
While his wRC+ in 2016 with Reading was an outstanding 155 (see above), it dropped just a shade below average in 2017 in Triple-A (99). Coupled with a 107 point drop in ISO (.315 in 2016; .208 in 2017), and it appears a repeat at Triple-A would be a very good thing for him.
Another fly-ball hitter with pull tendencies and a HR/FB% of 32.3%, Cozens has the potential for all-fields power if he can learn to drive a few outside pitches to LF, here and there. His 2017 home/away splits may have saved him from a sub-.200 BA (home .270, away .154), not to mention a blistering May (.330 BA, 1.075 OPS in 114 PA) after a painfully-slow start in April (.136 BA in 90 PA, 5 XBH, .507 OPS) on top of slowly plummeting from June onwards (.740 OPS in June, .638 in July, .524 in August).
But again, we're talking about potential, here, and power is sorely needed in Philadelphia.
At 6'6”, 235, his below-average speed, arm and glove limit him to left field or perhaps first base, so if the Phillies can't find a place for Cozens he could be an interesting trade piece for a team that plays in a hitter's park (are you listening, Cincinnati?).
Cozens will likely get a lot of chances to make good in the big leagues. Barring serious injury, he's going to make it to the Show, though what his ultimate role will be is going to depend on how much his run production will offset these other shortcomings.
I want to see a full year in Lehigh Valley from him before I jump on the bandwagon. But big bats like this don't come along all that often, and the possibilities (especially for a team in Philly's position) are more than enough to keep watching him.