Zack Cozart is in comeback mode as he enters Year 2 of his 3-year, $38 million free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2018 season was a big disappointment for the ex-Ole Miss standout. He hit .219 with five home runs in 58 games and was done following shoulder surgery in June. In 2017, his last year in Cincinnati, he put up career numbers (.297, 24 homers, 63 RBIs) and made the All-Star Game at shortstop. The Angels signed him, initially to play second base, then shifting him to third. Heading into spring training, it’s unclear where Cozart, now 33, will play or if he’ll even play full-time. The team depth chart on mlb.com lists him at both second and third. Younger players are nipping at his heels. From halohangout.com: “His 2017 season was a fluke in many ways, from his sudden explosion of power to his ability to hit for average and even his durability.” With Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton in the lineup, the Angels are an intriguing club desperate to make the postseason. They’d no doubt welcome a return to 2017 form from Cozart. P.S. Asked at a recent team event about the Chicago White Sox’s pursuit of Manny Machado, East Central Community College product Tim Anderson had this to say to mlb.com: “He would play a great role in what we are trying to do as far as winning a championship. He definitely brings that talent.” Machado’s preferred position is shortstop, which happens to be where Anderson has played, very capably, the past three seasons. … Former DeSoto Central star Austin Riley is on the MLB Pipeline list of the Top 10 third base prospects for a fourth straight year, checking in at No. 3 in 2019. He has 71 homers over four minor league seasons and finished 2018 with 12 in 75 games at Triple-A Gwinnett. The 21-year-old’s path to The Show is currently blocked by veteran Josh Donaldson, signed as a free agent by Atlanta in November.
This year was going to be different for Zack Cozart. After enduring four straight losing seasons in Cincinnati, the ex-Ole Miss star signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Angels, a star-studded club expected to contend for the postseason. If the Angels do make the playoffs, Cozart will only be watching. The team announced Wednesday night that the veteran infielder will have season-ending shoulder surgery. The news broke during the Angels’ game at Boston, and MLB Network analyst Tom Verducci called it “a key injury” for the team, which is winning but still searching for top-of-the-lineup consistency. “That’s another option that is gone now,” Verducci said. Cozart, a 2017 National League All-Star who batted .297 with 24 homers for the Reds, had been slow to adjust to his new league, batting .219 with five homers in 58 games. He had started at third base, second and shortstop. This is the second major injury for the 32-year-old in four years; he missed most of the 2015 season with a knee.
Free agency should be good to Zack Cozart. The former Ole Miss star, a good-hit/good-field shortstop, is rated No. 11 on the list of 184 available free agents by sports.yahoo.com. He is coming off a career year, having made his first All-Star Game. He earned $5.3M in 2017. The one issue, the Yahoo writer suggests, might be Cozart’s age: 32. Not exactly ancient, but for a shortstop … . Oddly enough, on a recent MLB Now segment on MLB Network, Cozart was mentioned as both the “most underrated” and “most overrated” player on the market. UM product Lance Lynn, who bounced back strong in 2017 after Tommy John surgery, was No. 13 on Yahoo’s list, Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland No. 47, ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star Jarrod Dyson No. 52 and former Rebels standout Seth Smith No. 73. Other Mississippians on the market (as minor leaguers) are Tyler Moore, Alex Presley, David Goforth, Scott Copeland, Joey Butler and Cody Satterwhite as well as Chris Coghlan, Desmond Jennings and Louis Coleman, erstwhile big leaguers released during the 2017 season.
Spoiler. It’s not a role Zack Cozart, the ex-Ole Mis star, or any of his Cincinnati teammates want to be playing, but it’s where they are in mid-August. Buried in the cellar of the National League Central, the Reds (49-68) have a boatload of games left against the other four division teams, which are bunched within 3 games of each other in the division standings. Cozart in particular could be a major thorn in the side of those clubs. The starting shortstop for the NL All-Star team last month, he is having a career year and showing no signs of easing off on the gas. Since coming off a second stint on the disabled list last Sunday, Cozart is 9-for-26 with four home runs and seven RBIs. “I want to be playing and playing well the rest of the year,” he told mlb.com. “That’s the goal.” Overall, he is batting .316 with 16 homers (matching his career-best) and 46 RBIs. A pending free agent, Cozart has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to the off-season, but it doesn’t appear now that he’s going anywhere this season. That could be bad news for Milwaukee, which has seven games left with the Reds including today’s at Miller Park, the Chicago Cubs (10), St. Louis (six) and Pittsburgh (nine). … The Reds’ roster includes two other Mississippi-connected players, Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton and Ole Miss product Stuart Turner. Former Northwest Mississippi Community College star Cody Reed is pitching in Triple-A and could be added in September. P.S. Props to UM alum Drew Pomeranz, who notched his career-best 12th win – and fifth in a row – as Boston beat the New York Yankees 10-5 on Saturday. … Ex-Rebels star Chris Coghlan, who has been on Toronto’s DL for weeks, was designated for assignment, clouding the remainder of his year. … The Cardinals honored their 1987 pennant-winning team on Saturday (before beating hapless Atlanta) at Busch Stadium. Jackson native and Jackson State product Curtis Ford was a semi-regular outfielder on that club, which lost to Minnesota in the World Series.
American League All-Star DH Corey Dickerson, in an interview on MLB Network on Monday, didn’t offer up a very complex analysis of his resurgent 2017 season. “I gotta be me,” he said. “Be the hitter I am.” Dickerson, the McComb native and Brookhaven Academy and Meridian Community College alumnus, is batting .312 (.355 on-base percentage) with 17 homers in 85 games in his second season with Tampa Bay. He hit 24 bombs in 2016 but batted just .245 (.293 OBP). A .299 hitter in three years in Colorado and a .321 hitter in the minors, Dickerson said it was the first time in his career that he had struggled at the plate: “I was searching, didn’t know who I was.” He got fitter in the off-season and made subtle changes to his free-swinging approach. He appears to be Corey Dickerson again – and that’s a good thing. He’ll bat seventh for the AL tonight at Marlins Park in Miami. Ole Miss product Zack Cozart bats ninth and plays shortstop for the NL. … Putting the best players in the game on the field at one time won’t necessarily produce a great game. Baseball doesn’t work that way. But the All-Star Game has produced its share of drama. This year marks the 10th anniversary of one such game, and a couple of Mississippians were involved. Flash to 2007 and San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The National League scored two runs in the ninth to make it a 5-4 game and had the bases loaded when Aaron Rowand popped out against Francisco Rodriguez to end it. Vicksburg native Dmitri Young got a one-out hit for the NL in that final inning and scored on Alfonso Soriano’s home run. Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless eighth for the American League, preserving the 5-2 lead, but yielded to J.J. Putz (who was followed by Rodriguez) in the ninth. Holmes Community College alum Roy Oswalt of Weir was on the NL roster but didn’t get in the game. … Other All-Star anniversaries of note: Forty years ago, at Yankee Stadium, Mississippi native Dave Parker, batting third for the NL, singled and scored as part of a four-run first inning against Jim Palmer that carried the Senior Circuit to a 7-5 win. That was one of Parker’s seven All-Star game appearances. … Seventy years ago, Pascagoula’s Harry “The Hat” Walker, then with Philadelphia, batted leadoff for the NL and went 0-for-2 in a 2-1 loss at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Walker made two All-Star Games during an 11-year career. … Eighty years ago, in Griffith Stadium in Washington, adopted Mississippian Dizzy Dean suffered a broken toe when struck by a line drive off the bat of Earl Averill. After the All-Star Game (in which he took the loss), Dean tried to pitch through the injury, hurt his arm and hastened the end of his brilliant career. Ellisville’s Buddy Myer was on the NL team that year but didn’t play, and Gulfport native Gee Walker, selected as a starter for the NL, couldn’t play because of injury.
It’s really not a fair fight. Zack Cozart plays in the 65th biggest city in the country, Cincinnati. Corey Seager plays in Los Angeles, No. 2 on that list, Addison Russell in Chicago, No. 3. And yet, former Ole Miss standout Cozart still leads the fan voting for National League All-Star shortstop by a decent margin. Yes, Reds fans are very passionate, and yes, Cozart is having a big year — .320, nine homers, 32 RBIs – but one would think the big-market boys would have a substantial built-in edge. Nevertheless, Cozart, who’s never made the All-Star Game, leads Seager by more than 300,000 votes and Russell – last year’s fan vote winner — by almost 500,000. All the news wasn’t good for Cozart on Monday: He went on the 10-day disabled list with a quad strain.
Don’t look now, but ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart has climbed into the top two at shortstop in the National League All-Star voting. Cozart, batting .348 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs for Cincinnati, trails the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Seager and is just ahead of the Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell. Cozart, in his seventh big league season, has never made the All-Star Game. He said it was “a little shocking” to pass Russell, who is buoyed by Cubs fever. Cozart leads NL shortstops in most offensive categories and is also tops in Defensive Runs Saved. He went 2-for-4 on Monday night against St. Louis – extending his on-base streak to 27 games – and was in the middle of a game-winning four-run rally in the seventh inning. The Reds (26-30) are battling to stay afloat in the NL Central. P.S. Former Biloxi Shuckers standout Brett Phillips was 1-for-3 with an outfield assist (and an error) in his MLB debut for Milwaukee. Phillips is the 12th Shuckers alum to make the majors, a list that includes Orlando Arcia, Jacob Barnes and Yadiel Rivera.
Zack Cozart is out for the season, the Cincinnati Reds have announced, KO’d by the knee injury suffered on Wednesday when he stumbled crossing first base. The former Ole Miss star, in his fifth big league season, was hitting .258 with nine homers and 28 RBIs while playing a smooth shortstop. … On a positive note, Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College alumnus, is in the Colorado lineup today, playing left field and batting sixth against Miami. Dickerson, out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot since May 18, is batting .306 with five homers and 16 RBIs for the Rockies.
It seems odd to put Billy Hamilton and the word “slowly” in the same sentence, but here goes: The former Taylorsville High star is slowly starting to hit for the Cincinnati Reds. The jet-fast Hamilton, feeling some pressure perhaps as the Reds’ new leadoff batter this spring, got off to an awful start but is batting .282 over his last 10 games. He extended his hit streak to five games with a 1-for-5 effort in the Reds’ 8-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. He is now hitting .213 with seven stolen bases in nine tries. He has walked just three times and scored only six runs, but those totals should begin to rise. “I’m starting to get to the point where I’m more relaxed, and I can play this game with the big guys,” Hamilton told mlb.com before getting three hits on Saturday. The Reds, just 8-10, need Hamilton’s spark at the top of the lineup. They could also use some more offensive crackle from Ole Miss alumnus Zack Cozart, who is batting just .153. The Cincy shortstop went 3-for-5 Sunday and belted his first home run, so perhaps things are beginning to turn around for him, too. P.S. The New York Mets reportedly will recall 40-year-old outfielder Bobby Abreu, the only ex-Jackson General still playing affiliated ball. (Freddy Garcia apparently is going to pitch in Taiwan this year.)