Zachary Warren Cozart
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 196 lb.
- School University of Mississippi
- High School Collierville High School
- Debut July 7, 2011
Cozart hit .430 in high school, including .450 as a senior. He was All-Metro in basketball, leading his league in three-pointers as a sophomore. Additionally, he played football in high school.
Cozart made an immediate splash in college, breaking Seth Smith's Ole Miss freshman record for total bases with 110 and setting the school freshman run record as well with 53. He hit .281/.381/.476 for the year. In 2006, the sophomore put up a .338/.370/.515 line with 57 runs and 64 RBI in 66 games; he stole 15 bases in 18 tries. He was named All-Southeastern Conference at short and he led SEC shortstops with a .975 fielding percentage. The American Baseball Coaches Association named him second-team All-American behind Ryan Khoury. He hit .224 for Team USA's college edition, splitting shortstop with Todd Frazier, Darwin Barney and Brandon Crawford. The US won the 2006 World University Championship.
Cozart fell to .311/.389/.432 as a junior but again was named All-SEC at shortstop. The Cincinnati Reds chose him in the second round of the 2007 amateur draft. The signing scout was Jerry Flowers. His pro debut with the Dayton Dragons that season was unimpressive as he hit .239/.288/.332. In 2008, Zach remained at Dayton and improved to .280/.330/.457 with 14 homers while fielding .978 at short. He led the Midwest League's shortstops with a .978 fielding percentage. He won All-Star honors at short as well.
The Tennessee native produced at a .262/.360/.398 rate for the 2009 Carolina Mudcats with 29 doubles. He fielded .959 with 23 errors, more than double his 2008 total. He led Southern League shortstops with 209 putouts and 83 double plays. Cozart then hit .340 with 10 RBI in 13 games for the Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League.
Moving up to the AAA Louisville Bats in 2010, Cozart hit .310 with a career-high 17 homers and 30 stolen bases in 34 tries. He hit .357 with 6 home runs in 77 games for the Bats in 2011 before being promoted to the Reds in July. In his big league debut facing the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7th, he went 1 for 3 and scored a run. Playing shortstop for the Reds, he hit safely in his first seven major league games. He had claimed the starting job, but suffered a setback on July 23rd when he hyperextended his left elbow in a collision at second base in a game against the Atlanta Braves and was placed on the disabled list. He did not play again in the major leagues that season, ending the year with a batting line of .324/.324/.426 in 11 games.
Cozart confirmed in 2012 that he had what it takes to be a major league regular, playing 138 games as the Reds' regular shortstop while the team won a division title. He hit .246/.288/.399 in 561 at-bats, the best part of his offensive game being his power, as witnessed by 33 doubles, 4 triples and 15 homers. Hitting at the top of the batting order in spite of his low OBP, he drove in only 35 runs, but scored 72. He went 5 for 21 against the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, scoring two runs as the Reds lost in five games. After the season, he was named to the 2012 Topps All-Star Rookie Team as the top rookie shortstop in the major leagues that year. On April 5, 2013, he had a great day against the Washington Nationals, hitting two homer in a game for the first time of his career and driving in a personal best five runs in a 15-0 trashing of the Nats. He hit .254 in 151 games that season, with another 30 doubles and 12 homers, scoring 74 runs and driving in 33. While his OPS+ was below average at 82 those first two years, the Reds were happy because he was still contributing with the bat in a number of areas and was playing good defense on an everyday basis to boot. The Reds reached the postseason again in 2013, but were eliminated in the Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, with Zack going 0 for 3 with a walk.
Cozart's offensive production took a big dip in 2014 however, as his batting average fell to .221 and his OBP to a terrible .268. His power, the most interesting part of his game, also fell significantly, as he was down to 18 doubles and 4 homers in 147 games. In spite of good defensive play, it was hard to argue that he was helping the Reds at that level of production. It seemed to be just a one-year blip, however, as he hit much better in the early part of 2015. In 53 games, his average had bounced back to .258 and his OBP to .310 and he had already hit 10 doubles and 9 homers, giving him an OPS+ of 108 and making him a very valuable component of the team once again. It all came crashing down on June 10th, as he took an awkward fall in trying to avoid a tag while running to first base and tore ligaments in his right knee. He had to undergo surgery, his season over.