Dylan Cozens, OF, Phillies (Double-A Reading, Eastern League)
Perhaps the most impressive part of Dylan Cozens’ breakout season for the Reading Fightin Phils has been the impact of some subtle – and not-so-subtle – swing changes that are paying off in the form of improved plate coverage, increased bat speed, and some eye-popping improvement in his power numbers this year.
In 2015, Cozens used a slightly crouched, open stance with a moderate leg lift, and a slightly open plant foot at impact (a visual of which can be seen here: jump to 2:12 mark). The swing was conducive to a more pull-oriented approach, with the open front foot pulling him off the plate a bit, making it tough to cover the outer third of the strike zone, and making him prone to some roll-over outs.
The Cozens we have seen in 2016 features a squared-up and narrower stance with a much taller posture, refined over the winter with a 91 AB stint with Indios de Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He’s still got the slight forward press of the bat, with his hands at chest level before being pulled back when loading, and a moderate leg lift timing mech. to initiate the swing. But he now takes a slightly shorter stride, with his plant foot squared-up to the pitcher, a quicker weight transfer into the pitch, and a more upright impact position. He has a balanced finish weighted slightly onto the back foot as a result of the lift in the swing path. You can see his revamped mechanics, as well as a good visual of his squared-up stance and plate coverage below.
How is it working out for him? He’s now showcasing his raw athleticism more prominently, as he’s unlocked some newly-found bat speed thanks to a quicker upper-body and hip rotation that the taller posture and narrower stance now allows for, and he’s making hard contact with backspin and carry, and with some lift in the swing, showing easy power to all fields now. The improved plate coverage is also giving him ability step more directly into pitches and use his raw strength to drive pitches on the outer third into the gaps, vs. relying on last-year’s predominantly pull-oriented approach.
Overall, he adjustments are a marked improvement year-over-year, and he’s shown the ability to make pretty pronounced swing changes quickly. While he’s still got a long swing with big extension – not unusual given his massive frame – he’s not having any trouble turning on velocity. The swing-and-miss is still a part of his game (his K-rate is @29%, up from 2015’s 20% across three levels), but he is showing marginal improvement in his plate discipline, bumping his OBP from .336 in 2015 to .373 this year thanks to a slight improvement in his BB:K rates (29:90 in 2015 or 1:3 vs. 50:116 or 1:2.3 in 2016), which suggests he’s working deeper into counts this year.
The raw power numbers (25 HRs vs. a combined 24 from 2014-15, 29 2Bs YTD vs. 25 for all of ’15) will be tough for the Phillies’ front office to ignore for much longer.
Jon Lester (LHP, Cubs) put the Cozens-type profile best when discussing hitters with the Boston Globe on July 17, saying that “hitters are being taught more and more to hit the ball in the air. I know our hitters have that emphasized here. I know there are a lot more strikeouts too, so hitters are willing to strike out in exchange for a fly ball that has a chance to get out of the park.”
Cozens fits that profile to a tee. He’s slammed Double-A pitching since Opening Day, and now has a solid 400 at-bat sample size at Reading, so I’d expect him to be bumped to Triple-A in the next few weeks to see how his 2016 adjustments play up against more advanced pitching.