At the age of 30 and in his sixth MLB season, Cincinnati Reds shortstop and Ole Miss product Zack Cozart is having another phenomenal year, picking up right where he left off after an injury cut his 2015 season short. In 237 AB this season Cozart has a .276 BA, .323 OBP, .492 SLG and has hit eleven home runs. That is a statistically significant line considering Cozart had produced consecutive diminishing OPS figures of .687, .665, and .568 since 2012. Voting for the 2016 MLB All-Star Game on July 12 closes on June 30, and Zack Cozart currently sits at fifth place in votes for National League shortstops with 449,278 votes behind Brandon Crawford, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Addison Russell who has received an absurd total of 1,489,998 votes from enthusiastic Cubs fans. Today, we are going to take a look at Zack Cozart’s performance on the field and make the case for why he deserves to be selected to the 2016 NL All-Star team.
Zack Cozart: His Case for the All-Star Game
Zack Cozart has been an absolute gem both at the plate and in the field, and he has been a phenomenal standout among fellow NL shortstops. Cozart is currently fourth among NL shortstops in batting average behind Seager (.297), Jonathan Villar (.299) and Aledmys Diaz (.306). He is fourth among NL shortstops in home runs with 11 behind Danny Espinosa (13), Seager (16) and Trevor Story (18). He is third among NL shortstops in slugging percentage at .506 behind Seager at .527 and Trevor Story at .554. He is third among NL shortstops in isolated power at .224 behind Seager with .230 and Story with .286.
Sensing a pattern? The two rookies, Seager of the Dodgers and Story of the Rockies, have had fantastic seasons with power-hitting offense. Cozart does, however, top both of them in doubles this season, as he leads all NL shortstops in that category with a total of 18. Cozart is in the top three in three major offensive categories behind just Seager and Story in slugging percentage and isolated power. In the categories in which he comes in fourth place, he is topped by just Diaz and Villar for batting average and Espinosa of the Nationals for homers. Diaz has two fewer homers than Cozart at nine and has an OPS .029 higher than Cozart’s due to his impressive .365 OBP compared to .317 for the Reds shortstop, while Villar has a lower OPS of .800 and fewer homers at six in total. Villar has absolutely made his mark on the base paths this season as he leads all of baseball with 25 steals. Espinosa has two more long balls than Cozart, but he has an OPS of just .737 from a forgettable .222/.322/.415 slash line. Espinosa’s line is good, but it isn’t All-Star level good.
Did you notice who didn’t make the top tier of those major offensive categories? Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and Cubs shortstop Addison Russell who place fourth and first in All-Star votes ahead of Cozart with 692,640 and 1,489,998. Cozart has toppled both Crawford and Russell by hefty margins in offense this year. In 255 at bats, Crawford has a slash line of just .259/.334/.400 and six home runs, while Addison Russell has performed well under expectations with a .245/.338/.392 slash line and six homers in 226 at bats for the powerful Cubs offense. Crawford and Russell have enthusiastic and active fan bases behind them. Crawford is a superb defensive player and Russell is a promising young player for the youthful first place Cubbies, but when it comes to offensive production, Cozart has outplayed both of them by a sizable margin.
The Glove Has Never Waivered
Now, to Cozart’s wizardry on defense. Zack Cozart currently holds the top defensive range factor among NL shortstops with a 4.85. In fact, he is tied for second with Jose Iglesias in all of MLB behind Elvis Andrus at 4.88. Where do the other NL contenders place on this scale? Trevor Story and Jonathan Villar are tied at third with a 4.43, Brandon Crawford ranks seventh with a 4.16, Aledmys Diaz ranks eighth with a 4.15, Corey Seager places 11th with a 3.96, Danny Espinosa ranks twelfth at 3.95 and Addison Russell comes in with the third worst NL figure of 3.93. Simply put, Cozart covers a greater defensive range at shortstop than every other player at his position in the National League.
Zack Cozart has the fourth highest offensive WAR among NL shortstops at 1.5, the third highest defensive WAR at 1.1 and the third highest WAR at 2.3 within striking distance of Crawford at 2.4 and Seager at 2.5. Cozart is currently the third best overall shortstop in the NL. Those that best him in some offensive categories such as Seager, Story, Diaz, Villar and Espinosa can’t hold a candle to Cozart defensively. While Crawford has bested Cozart in defensive WAR, his work on offense is eclipsed by Cozart’s slugging. Addison Russell may be on a great team, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season in Chicago, no matter how many votes Chicago residents choose to cast.
There must be at least one Cincinnati Red selected to the All-Star Game. The Cincinnati bullpen has been historically bad this year, so the All-Star isn’t coming from there. The rotation has been promising, but no one has stood out as an All-Star selection. Cozart is the only Reds player to be in the top five in voting for his position. He is in the top tier of offense, he is elite on defense and he has earned a selection to the 2016 All-Star Game.