When trying to find a problem player for the Cincinnati Reds, I had a difficult time. Since beginning the season at 3-8, the Reds have really turned things around and it has been a total team effort. Many bats are coming alive, starting pitching has been great, (minus the first two games of the past weekend series with the Atlanta Braves) and defense has been solid. However, when I look at the offense, I see one problem glaring at me toward the bottom of the line up: Zack Cozart.
Cozart is in his third season as the starting shortstop, and on defense he has done nothing but dazzle with amazing catches and a strong arm. Take a look at his production from the plate, and those numbers are not so dazzling. To start this season, Cozart has only 11 hits in 82 plate appearances, good for a .141 batting average. That’s not the kind of production Cincinnati wants to see out of their every day shortstop.
Now, Cozart has proven why he should be the team’s starting shortstop. You aren’t going to be able to easily replace his glove, and after all it is defense that wins championships. Maybe giving him a few days off to work on his approach would really do him well. Neftali Soto and Ramon Santiago could share the shortstop duties while Cozart takes a few days off.
Trading Cozart or calling someone up from the minors isn’t really an option for manager Bryan Price. He has all the tools he needs to solve this problem already on his ballclub. Soto has only played in a few games this season, but he has made the most of it, knocking in a run and scoring a run early in the week in a Reds’ victory.
Another option could be to send Cozart down to Triple-A Louisville for a few days to get him some extra swings. Facing pitchers who aren’t as tough as the major leaguers could allow Cozart to start seeing the ball better and if he can get some kind of hitting streak going down in the minors, it could be a huge confidence boost and really help his performance up in the majors. He just looks uncomfortable and out of sorts at the plate, and getting some extra swings in could help him figure his stuff out before he gets even deeper into his current slump.
If the Reds can start to get some production out of Cozart in the bottom of the lineup, this offense could be deadly. Jay Bruce is having a great start to this season behind the plate, and with the likes of Billy Hamilton, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips being able to get on base, having Cozart in the bottom of the lineup being able to hit them in would do wonders for this offense.
Devin Mesoraco was the driving force in the bottom of the lineup, having the best start of his young career, and now that he is on the 15-day disabled list, the Reds will look to Cozart to pick up his production.
To read more about the Cincinnati Reds, check out their team page here. http://isportsweb.com/mlb/cincinnati-reds/