2016 Phillies Report Card: Dylan Cozens
By this point, you’ve no doubt heard of Dylan Cozens, the biggest power threat in the organization and a recent addition to the Phillies prospect-laden 40-man roster. It’s not often a spoonerism so succinctly encompasses a player’s strength (quite literally) as it does for the gargantuan 22-year-old who posted a minor league-best 40 homers. Dylan Cozens spent his first full season in double-A Cylan Dozens of baseballs. Nearly three and a half dozen to be precise. At 6’5” 235 pounds, he’s a carbon copy of Carson Wentz sans pads, plus some lumber on his shoulder, and he puts every pound into his cuts from the left side. While that produces plus-plus power, it also causes problems with plate discipline, especially facing off-speed pitches.
His power played in homer-happy Reading where the jet streams are bountiful and the balls fly out like bee-bees, rocketing him up MLB.com’s Top 30 Phillies prospect list from No. 22 to No. 6 by season’s end. The home-road splits tell a similar tale.
He hit three-quarters of his homers at home, and his .744 home slugging percentage was essentially his road .766 OPS. ‘Nuff said.
It’s not the first time a Phillie farmhand has taken home the Joe Bauman Home Run Award for the top slugger in the minors since its initiation in 2002. In 2004, Ryan Howard led the minors with 46 home runs before earning a September call-up. And in 2012, none other than Darin Ruf, yes, that Darin Ruf, topped all minor leaguers with 38 homers. Both spent their seasons in Reading. That is as profound a disclaimer as could ever be made about the effects of FirstEnergy Stadium. Cozens’ power could be legit a la Howard, or it could simply mask an inability to string together professional at-bats at the next levels like Ruf, a perennial quad-A player.
Regardless of the venue, his home run spray chart is a thing of beauty. His ability to power the ball to all fields appealed to the Phillies’ brass since he took pre-Draft batting practice at Citizens Bank as an 18-year-old. Even then, he sprayed a few opposite field homers and launched two balls into the second deck in right. Pretend you didn’t know Cozens was a southpaw. Does this look like the spray chart of a power hitting right-hander with a keen ability to let the ball travel and muscle it out the opposite way, or a lock-and-load left-hander who can also push balls over the fence in left?
We won’t know how his power translates until he spends a full season or two separated from power-friendly Reading. It’s very likely he spends spring training in major league camp and begins 2017 in Lehigh Valley. Both time and increased reps against tougher competition will speak volumes.
Even at his size, he displayed better-than-expected speed swiping 21 bases last season, fewer than only Roman Quinn in Reading. He is an athletic specimen the Phillies lured away from a dual-scholarship to play baseball and defensive end for Rich Rodriguez at the University of Arizona. His athleticism is not in question.
The flip side of his tremendous 2016 power display was a career-worst 31.7% strikeout rate. Beginning in a relatively narrow stance (especially for a mammoth 6’6” corner outfielder), his heavy weight transfer follows a leg kick that brings his knee nearly waist high and thigh almost parallel with the ground. That much weight and power moving forward exacerbates his inability to stay back and hit breaking balls. And apparently it’s a touchy subject for Cozens. Earlier this month in the Dominican Winter League, he socked a teammate who mocked him about his difficulty hitting the slow stuff, gifting him five stitches. Talk about someone you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a happy haymaker from. It wasn’t the first character question mark for Cozens either. He was suspended from his high school baseball team before he switched schools to Chapparal High School where he promptly broke Paul Konerko’s single-season home run record. Of the incident in question, Reuben Amaro Jr. said, “I think he got into a couple tussles. But that’s okay, I don’t have a problem with that.”
I don’t think it’s much to worry about, more of an anecdotal puzzle piece that may prove more revealing should that weakness hinder him from taking the next steps to becoming a competent big leaguer.
Overall, it wouldn’t be fair to hold the cozy confines of Reading, something he has no control over, against Cozens. It’s more of a slight asterisk, a take-this-with-a-grain-of-salt qualifier. His bloated strikeout rate was all that kept him from a straight A in my grade book.