The Philadelphia Phillies have surprisingly competed thus far in 2016, and it has been in large part due to the youth rebellion within their system. Aaron Nola is the ace of a young and upcoming staff, while names Odubel Herrera and Tommy Joseph are leading the charge on offense. After a few quality drafts and an offseason of successful trades saw them revamp their farm system, they have a bevy of young stars on the pipeline as well.
One of those hopeful future stars is the reigning Eastern League Player of the Month of May, Dylan Cozens. Cozens is coming off of a huge month that saw an 11-game hitting streak and 19 extra-base hits with nine home runs and 26 RBI. That’s what Cozens has become known for, a big bat and some exciting raw power.
Cozens was selected by the Phillies in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Chaparral High School in Arizona. He is an imposing left-handed hitter at the plate, standing at 6-foot-6 and 235.
The 2014 season was a big one for Cozens as people began to take notice of both positive and negative aspects in his game. Offensively, Cozens broke out his power bat, registering 47 extra-base hits and a then-career-best 16 home runs. The problem was his swing mechanics and plate discipline were not that of a top-notch prospect, as he struck out 147 times in 509 at bats (a career-worst 26.4 percent) and walked just 40 times (7.2 percent).
While the power didn’t increase in 2015, it was everything that the Phillies had hoped for as far as plate progress goes. Cozens saw play at three levels, ending the season with a brief debut in Double-A that certainly turned some heads. He hit .350 in an 11-game stint, belting three home runs in just 40 at bats. More importantly he lowered his strikeout rate to a career-best mark of 19 percent (striking out just 79 times) and improved his slash line to a career-best .286/.336/.426.
This season, Cozens has been a combination of 2014 and 2015, but the power is on full display. He is currently leading the Eastern League in runs (45), doubles (18), total bases (128), slugging percentage (.571) and OPS (.926), besting some big-name prospects like Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier. He already has 16 home runs, tying his career mark with three months to go.
While his walk ratio is around his career norm and he is posting a career-best .354 on base percentage, the strikeouts have fallen back to those 2014 numbers. He has already struck out 72 times this season (remember, he struck out 79 all of last year), a career worst 28.9 percent. This could simply be a minor setback, however, as he continues to learn how to become more of a hitter than just the natural slugger he once was.
Not to be overlooked is Cozens’ speed. He can move surprisingly well for a big guy, and it has helped him on both sides of the ball. He has become a better outfielder, improving his routes with that speed and with an already-strong arm, has become a weapon on defense. He has also proven to be a very astute baserunner, having stolen 31-of-38 attempts since the beginning of 2015 (11-for-12 this year thus far). He has the numbers and height of a young Darryl Strawberry, despite not matching The Straw Man’s physical features and legendary leg kick (although he has a rather defined kick himself).
For video footage of some of his home runs and more analysis, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full article. It’s as easy as clicking the link below!##