Dylan Cozens: Why I’m Struggling to Buy-In to the Phillies Young Slugger

Aug 28, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; The Philadelphia Phillies celebrate after defeating the New York Mets 5-1 at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 28, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; The Philadelphia Phillies celebrate after defeating the New York Mets 5-1 at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /

Dylan Cozens is wrapping up a tremendous season for the AA Reading Fightin’ Phils. However, there are some red flags that make me hesitant about the Phillies outfield prospect’s long-term success.

By most standards, Dylan Cozens is having an outstanding season in AA Reading. The left-handed outfielder has 37 home runs this season, one shy of Darin Ruf’s team record. This season, Cozens has a .941 OPS and 155 wRC+.

Cozens and Reading teammate Rhys Hoskins have propelled Reading to an 84-49 record, best in the Eastern League.

The Fightin’ Phils have already clinched a spot in the playoffs, where they look to make their second straight appearance in the Eastern League finals. Except his time, they’ll be looking to take home the championship.

This kind of production at Reading reminds me of another Phillies slugging prospect who broke out at Reading: Darin Ruf. In 2012, Ruf clubbed 38 home runs with 104 RBI, batting for a 1.028 OPS in 139 AA games. However, as we know now, Ruf never lived up to the hype he generated with his 2012 season.

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When we start to delve deeper into Cozens’s season, there are several glaring issues that should give people on the Cozens bandwagon some pause.

For starters, whenever a Phillies prospect mashes at AA, you have to take a look at his home/road splits. FirstEnergy Stadium – Reading’s home field – is a notorious hitter’s park. Accordingly, 28 of Cozens’s 37 home runs have come at home. Meanwhile, Cozens has just 9 home runs in 62 road games. Further, Cozens has a .747 slugging percentage at home but a meager .435 on the road.

Seeing such drastic splits between home and away games, I worry that Cozens can’t produce without the boost FirstEnergy Stadium provides.

In addition, Cozens’s long frame and swing are both a blessing and a curse. When Cozens extends his arms fully, he generates plenty of leverage and can hit a ball out of any park.

However, this leaves him vulnerable to inside fastballs as well as breaking pitches away. Double-A pitchers have taken advantage of his weak spots, as Cozens has struck out 31% of the time, more than any other level in his career. As Cozens climbs the ladder to the majors, more advanced pitchers will surely take advantage of Cozens’s weakness and make him look silly at the plate.

Finally, Cozens still struggles to hit with any success against lefties. As he climbed through the minors, lefties dominated Cozens. This year has been more of the same, as Cozens has a lousy .203 batting average against lefties compared to a .298 average against righties. Not only that, 54 of Cozens’s 118 at-bats versus lefties have ended in strikeouts.

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If Cozens doesn’t figure out lefties by the time he reaches the majors, it will be hard to justify him as anything more than a platoon outfielder. While he would be valuable as a powerful lefty off the bench, a starting role wouldn’t go so well.

With so many red flags, I worry his offensive production at home and against righties masks serious issues. MLB.com and Baseball America ($) both have Cozens as a top-ten prospect in the organization. Until Cozens fixes these issues, it’s hard to justify such rankings.