Scouting the Minors Pitch by Pitch: Dylan Cozens

Dylan Cozens can’t get no respect, no respect at all! (via Buck Davidson)

Eli Ben-Porat’s Scouting the Minors Pitch by Pitch Series

Nov. 22, 2016: Swinging Strike %

Dec. 13, 2016: Power

Feb. 22, 2017: Modeling Infield Defense

April 18, 2017: Projecting Infield Defense

What if I told you there was a prospect out there who was 6-foot-6, 235, athletic enough in high school to be recruited to play defensive end in college, broke Paul Konerko‘s high school home run record (19-13), and posted three consecutive 20 stolen-base seasons, all capped with a 40-homer, 20 stolen-base season at age 22 in Double-A? Would you believe me that this prospect isn’t on anyone’s top 100 list?

Dylan Cozens, in my opinion, represents the starkest contrast between pure scouting and pure statistical evaluation.

He’s not ranked by Baseball America.
He’s not ranked by Baseball Prospectus.
He’s not ranked by MLB.com.
He’s not ranked by FanGraphs.
He’s not even in John Sickels’ top 200.

Chris Mitchell’s KATOH, had him at No. 1, even with a projection as a corner outfielder.

What gives?

Scouts will point to the obvious swing and miss in his game, as well as his challenges hitting off-speed pitches, a problem that will only be magnified in the major leagues. Others will point out that the 40 homers came at Reading, which artificially inflated his home run totals. His stolen base totals (and efficiency) are shrugged off, since he is only an “average” runner under way. In fact, most of what you would read about Mr. Cozens would indicate that the 40-20 season he just had was a complete fluke. I can tell you that with respect to the power, it was most definitively NOT artificially inflated by Reading, nor was it a fluke. Whether he will be a successful major league ballplayer is not a certainty, but his ceiling as a potential 40-home run masher who can play the outfield is considerably higher than his absence on top prospect lists would indicate.

Let’s look at some data.

Dylan Cozens led the minors in average fly ball distance… by a lot

I looked at minor league fly ball distance in December and discovered that in Double-A, among prospects who made the major leagues, the success rate of flyball distance leaders was phenomenal. The top fly ball distance hitters: Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Bryce Harper, George Springer, J.D. Martinez, Kris Bryant, Carlos Santana, Kyle Schwarber, Paul Goldschmidt, sprinkled in with Scott Schebler, Andy Parrino, and Mike Olt. Keep in mind that this is selected for players who were good enough to play in the majors, but when mixed in with their flyball distance, it’s a pretty good list. Other than Olt, there isn’t a true bust there and a whole lot of really, really good players.

What about the ballpark?

FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pa., is a 9,000-seat stadium that hosted its first regular season baseball game in 1951. It also didn’t artificially boost flyball distances.

May I Have Your Autograph, Please?
The payoff of being polite.

FirstEnergy Stadium sits comfortable middle-of the pack when it comes to fly ball distance. What about for left-handed hitters?

Slightly farther down the pack. Clearly, the flyball distances Cozens accrued while playing at home were not inflated by measurement bias at his home ballpark. These data would suggest that concerns about Reading inflating his home run totals ignore the fact that he just plain mashed the ball.

Top HR+FB Distance, AA Batters, Age <=23
Batter_name Age (Batter) Distance in Minors
Jorge Soler 22.4 337.3
Joey Gallo 21.3 334.4
Dylan Cozens 21.9 331.2
Javier Baez 21.0 327.3
Domingo Santana 21.1 324.8
Bryce Harper 19.3 324.6
Kris Bryant 22.0 324.4
J.D. Davis 23.0 323.8
Kyle Schwarber 22.0 323.3
Matt Chapman 23.0 321.9
Derek Fisher 23.0 316.0
A.J. Reed 22.0 316.0
Zach Walters 23.0 314.9
Rowdy Tellez 21.0 313.2
Joc Pederson 21.0 312.6
Max Stassi 22.0 312.2
Cesar Puello 22.0 311.9
Tyler O’Neill 21.0 311.9
Jonathan Villar 20.6 311.5
Miguel Sano 20.9 311.5
Justin Williams 21.0 311.3
Ji-Man Choi 22.1 310.8
Clint Frazier 22.0 310.5
Kevin Cron 23.0 309.9
Jackie Bradley 22.0 309.6
Derrick Loveless 23.0 309.1
Gabriel Lino 22.3 308.5
Ryan O’Hearn 23.0 307.5
Christian Yelich 22.0 307.3
Wil Myers 21.4 307.2
Michael Taylor 23.0 307.0
Alfredo Marte 22.9 306.6
Steven Moya 23.0 306.4
Taylor Sparks 23.0 306.4
Jesus Aguilar 22.9 306.3
Jon Singleton 21.1 306.3
Andrew Pullin 23.0 306.2
Rhys Hoskins 23.0 306.2
Michael Conforto 22.0 306.0
Oscar Taveras 20.0 306.0
Wilin Rosario 22.0 305.4
Tim Wheeler 23.0 305.1
Cody Bellinger 21.0 305.0
Aaron Judge 23.0 305.0
SOURCE: MLB Advanced Media
Batters <=23 Average age while playing in Double-A, minimum 25 HR+FB outs

Cozens is surrounded by a lot of hitters with legit, top-of-the-scale power; this list would suggest that Cozens in Double-A demonstrated 80-grade power in real baseball action. Let’s try to see what other players posted similar statistical seasons looking at the two most critical aspects of Cozens’ game: power and whiffs.

Homers/balls in play to SwStr% in Double-A

We see Cozens in the same ballpark as O’Brien, Telvin Nash (complete bust), Kris Bryant and Javier Baez, with Joey Gallo as a more extreme version. HR/BIP is a noisy statistic, so let’s see who Cozens looks like statistically when we cross FB Distance with SwStr%:

Flyball distance to SwStr% in Double-A

Here we see the same cast of players (minus Telvin Nash whose homers per balls in play were not supported by his flyball distance), as well as George Springer, Domingo Santana and Bryce Harper. In fact, Cozens appears to be about halfway between Bryant/Harper and Joey Gallo.

What can we make of this? That Cozens doesn’t have an unprecedented amount of swing and miss in his game. Further, if you compare Cozens to Gallo, other than the fact that Cozens was two years older than Gallo at Double-A (Gallo being only 20 at the time is significant), we see a player who hit for almost as much power, with significantly less swing and miss in his game. However, coming off his first season at Double-A, where he hit .232, Gallo ranked as the No. 6 prospect in  baseball, according to Baseball America. Why is it that Gallo, with basically the same flaws as Cozens, is a top-10 prospect but Cozens is nowhere to be found?

Cozens took a real step forward in 2016

Dylan Cozens, Away vs Home FB Distance by LF/CF/RF
Away Home
Year    LF    CF    RF A    LF    CF    RF H Total
2012 258.0 287.4 374.7 287.3 262.3 261.8 318.1 276.1 281.9
2013 239.8 256.8 309.6 277.4 226.6 318.9 381.0 280.5 278.5
2014 285.8 309.5 289.1 294.6 269.1 296.3 320.1 296.3 295.4
2015 268.8 314.0 312.3 295.5 267.3 296.5 328.4 295.4 295.4
2016 284.4 345.5 334.8 319.6 344.8 323.6 368.5 344.9 334.9
SOURCE: MLB Advanced Media

We see real growth from Cozens in 2016 as his fly ball distance jumped dramatically, with improvement to every part of the field, both at home and on the road. (Quick note here that his Double-A flyball distance includes a few fly balls from 2015, which is why the 2016 number is higher than what is shown above). His opposite field power was quite evident and could help explain why people are assuming he was just taking advantage of the short porch in left field. What these numbers bear out is true power-to-all fields, especially at home, though still potent on the road.

Here’s another look at Cozens’ home run distribution at his home park:

Cozens’ home run chart would suggest that he did make optimal use of his ballpark, hitting a lot of homers down the right field line to the pull side as well as down the left field line to the opposite field. However, when we take a closer look, we see that a lot of the oppo-field home runs are beyond the 370 mark, with at least five homers crushed over 400 feet to the opposite field, showing textbook, power to all fields. All this points towards a prospect with 80 power that is finally showing up in games.

Poor Start to 2017

Through May 10, Cozens has a poor .196/.270/.393 slash line with 46 strike outs in 126 plate appearances (36.5% K%). This includes a horrendous .130/.216/.391 April, which he seems to be coming out of with an encouraging .355/.417/.645 in May. While a relatively small sample size, it may suggest that scouts are correct to assume he won’t be able to fill the holes in his swing, however, on the other hand, in a similarly small sample size, Gallo is having a pretty solid start to 2017, as a more extreme version of Cozens. On a similar vein, Aaron Judge should teach us patience with big, strong power sluggers with a propensity to strike out.

Conclusion

Cozens is one of those prospects who slips under the radar. The data do not suggest that he should be a universally acclaimed prospect, nor should this article be misconstrued as an argument placing him in the upper echelon of baseball’s prospectariat (especially when taking into account his slow start to 2017). Rather, it makes the case that Cozens is probably a lot better than scouts are giving him credit for and likely belongs as a top 100 prospect. KATOH certainly thinks highly of him, as do the pitch by pitch data.

References & Resources


Print This Post
Eli Ben-Porat is a Senior Manager of Reporting & Analytics for Rogers Communications. The views and opinions expressed herein are his own. He builds data visualizations in Tableau, and preps data in Alteryx. Follow him on Twitter @EliBenPorat.

Leave a Reply

8 Comments on "Scouting the Minors Pitch by Pitch: Dylan Cozens"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
The thing is…Judge never struck out 30% of the time in the minors, and his lowest BB% was 9.8. He’s also an above average defensive RF. Gallo (whom I’ve never particularly liked as a prospect), of course, is a great athlete with 90 raw power and an 80 arm. The common theme among players on that list who didn’t end up being successful is poor K/BB rates and lacking the athleticism/fluidity to make successful adjustments…both of which are Cozens’ main red flags. Here’s a great article (from a Phillies fan no less!) about why Cozens is pretty much tailor-made to… Read more »
JimmyTango
Guest
JimmyTango

Damn this is detailed! EBP is killin’ it.

JimmieFoXX
Guest
JimmieFoXX
The question with Cozens is can he shorten his stroke? That’s what the Aaron’s, Judge and Altherr did to succeed this year in MLB. Cozens will never succeed in MLB with the approach he has now, the holes in his swing are enormous. Rhys Hoskins though is looking very good despite the dramatic difference in the FB distance stated above. Hoskins swing looks way too long, but he makes contact with it squaring up balls everywhere around the zone and is willing to take his walks. I would advise Cozens to watch a lot of video of Dave Parker. Shorter,… Read more »
Romus
Guest

Since the field dimensions at FirstEnergy are normal when compared to most other ball parks, I am wondering if the summer night wind factor plays into some of his bombs into left center field?

javascript obfuscator
Guest

That Cozens doesn’t have an unprecedented amount of swing and miss in his game.

192.168.0.1
Guest

That Cozens doesn’t have an unprecedented amount of swing and miss in his game

wpDiscuz