Dylan Cozens: Forgotten Bash Brother
During the summer of 2016, Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins tore up AA so completely that they earned the moniker the “modern-day Bash Brothers.” In 2017 the Bash Brothers took their talents to Lehigh Valley, and while Hoskins soared right through to the majors and is one of the top young players in the baseball, Cozens…didn’t and isn’t. He floundered to the tune of .210/.301/.418. But one bad season shouldn’t be enough to turn you off of the struggling Brother.
Dylan Cozens had a 2016 season that put him on the radar for many fantasy owners and prospect aficionados alike. He started that year as a 21-year-old in AA for the Reading Fightin’ Phils, and finished it with a .276/.350/.591 slash line with 40 home runs and 22 stolen bases. Those numbers should (rightfully) make every fantasy owner swoon. As a result of his dominance, Cozens was ranked as Chris Mitchell’s number one KATOH prospect.
However, despite Cozens’ fantastic 2016 season and Chris Mitchell’s vote of confidence, Cozens did not rank in any top 100 lists. Reading’s is one of the best hitter’s parks in the minors and many questioned whether Cozens’ hit tool would be sufficient to play in the majors. Because of that ugly 2017 slashline and a k-rate of 35.8%, Cozens is justifiably falling even further down prospect lists (not even ranking in Baseball Prospectus Phillies top 20 or Baseball America Phillies Top 10). But his falling stock creates a great buying opportunity for fantasy owners that care–and dare–to dream.
The first step in embracing the wayward Bash Brother is changing how you think about strikeouts. Strikeouts are becoming more and more pronounced throughout baseball. Even WRC+ is reflecting this change: this past year there were 10 hitters that had a minimum of 300 PAs, struck out at a rate of 30% or higher, and still finished the year as better than average hitters by WRC+. These whiff-masters are Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano, Alex Avila, Ian Happ, Michael Taylor, Kyle Schwarber, Jesus Aguilar, Mike Zunino, and Khris Davis (Davis technically had a rate of 29.91%, but if you need to round up to include Khris Davis in your analysis, you do it). Ten years ago there were only 4 players who held that same distinction. Judge is one of the top overall hitters in baseball, and Gallo, Sano, Schwarber, and Davis are considered some of the best young sluggers in the game. So while strike outs are a concern, Cozens could still become a feared slugger in the Gallo, Sano, Schwarber, Davis mold.
Speaking of molds, of all those guys I think Cozens compares very well to Joey Gallo. Both are deceptively-athletic monster men (Gallo is 6’5″, Cozens is 6’6”). Their AA seasons are pretty comparable-
- Gallo, between High A and AA (2014)- 42 homers, 5 SBs, 33% k-rate, AA slashline- .232/.334/.524 (68 games)
- Cozens, full AA season (2016) – 4o homers, 22 SBs, 31.6% k-rate, AA slashline- .276/.350/.591
Gallo and Cozens each have top-of-the-scale power, a walk rate of over 10%, and strike out issues. Gallo has more power than Cozens, but Cozens power is still legitimate and Cozens has more speed. Speaking of speed…
Remember when I said he was athletic? As if the stolen base numbers didn’t hint at it already, Cozens is a good defensive outfielder. In 2016 he was a +13 defender in RF, and was a +10 defender in 2017, per Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics. Cozens wouldn’t be the first player whose defensive prowess kept him in the bigs while his bat developed, and I doubt he’ll be the last. And even as bad as he was he was last year, his 99 WRC+ was essentially league average in the International League. If Dylan Cozens is at his absolute worst, he’s a good defender with an average bat and a little base-running value. That’s a pretty decent player, and a far cry from the one-tool, power-only guys like Chris Carter. And if he’s not at his floor, his offensive potential could be similar to Gallo’s but with fewer fly balls; he could even sneak his average up into the .250 range.
It might take some time, and it won’t be an easy path for Cozens- the Phillies are still rebuilding and Citizens’ outfield is pretty crowded with Hoskins, Herrera, Altherr, Williams, and Roman Quinn all vying for time. Cozens still has some things to work on, but remember Gallo first made it to the majors in 2015 and didn’t become a regular until 2017. Cozens still has one of the best power tools in the minors, as well as the speed to get 10-15 bags a year. Do you want a prospect on your dynasty team that could one day hit .250 with 40+ home runs and 10+ steals? If you say no, I think you need to find a new hobby. Cozens could follow a similar path to Gallo, and your patience could pay off big time.
Don’t forget the second Bash Brother.