It's Cozart's Turn

For a franchise known for stability at shortstop with Dave Concepcion and Barry Larkin, it's been anything but that in Cincinnati since the latter's retirement in 2004. Paul Janish beginning his season in Louisville means the Reds will start their seventh different shortstop in the last eight openers. Rookie Zach Cozart looks begin a new trend when the Reds open tonight.

He had a cup of coffee in the bigs last season before injury ended his season prematurely. Though his action was brief it left Reds fans craving more. He hit .324 in 37 AB's. Now that his elbow has healed over the offseason he's ready to go as evidenced by his .345 average in spring training.

Sustaining a .300 average over an entire season as a regular is a lot to ask of any rookie. Don't be surprised to see him start out strong while opponents gain experience pitching him. This is the big leagues and they will eventually make adjustments. The key to Cozart's season, as with so many rookies, is how he is able to counter what they do.

Over the previous two seasons at Louisville he hit .275 with 24 HR in 876 AB's. He was batting .310 before his call-up last July. Playing in Great American Ballpark gives reason to expect good power from the middle infield position. His walk ratio in AAA was low at 1 BB/15.2 PA. He did draw three free passes in spring training which is three more than he had with the Reds last season.

Defensively in the minors he showed good range with a range factor of 4.54/game (RF=(PO+A)/G) . Last season's two shortstops Janish and Edgar Renteria were both under four. That's misleading because the major league team had more occasions to play two shortstops in the same game. Their RF/9 inn was: Janish (4.63) and Renteria (4.34) which suggests he is somewhere between them. He committed 68 errors in 477 games which is a rate that would yield 23 in 162 games, the same as the total number of E6's the Reds had last season. Cozart did pick it clean during his brief time wearing a Reds uniform with a RF=7.33/9 inn and zero E's.

Janish has flashed some nice leather since wearing a Reds uniform. His .260 AVG over 200 AB's in 2010 earned him the starting position last season. Struggles at the plate preceded a midseason demotion. Renteria picked up his offense over the latter part of the season to hit .251. The Reds opted not to re-sign him and the backup now is veteran Wilson Valdez who came from a trade with the Phillies.

The Reds made multiple moves with "win now" intent. They will be relying heavily on the 2007 2nd round draft choice out of Ole Miss. Manager Dusty Baker and the Reds Nation are hopeful that the cameo seen in 2010 turns out to be an accurate indicator for this rookie shortstop's future.

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