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We seem to have one team every offseason who comes out of nowhere to go all in for a shot at a championship. The calendar hasn’t even switched to 2018 and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have already solidified themselves as one of the top winners this offseason.

The Angels made a splash by winning the sweepstakes for Japanese phenom Shohei Otani, then traded for second baseman Ian Kinsler and signed free agent Zack Cozart. The Cozart signing figures to be the least impactful of these three deals, but will still have an impact on fantasy owners who bought into his breakout season.

Let's decide if Cozart will be a valuable piece to fantasy owners' teams, as the Angels hope he will be to theirs.

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Another Piece to the Puzzle

The Angels knew going into this offseason they needed to make moves. The reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros sit atop the division, while the Angels finished second with an 80-82 record thanks to a late-season surge. The Angels' losing record last year was mainly due to their poor performance at the plate. The Angels finished in the bottom third of the league in several key offensive categories, including average (28th), home runs (24th), runs scored (22nd) and OPS (27th). So far the Angels have shown how aggressive they wanted to be in improving that portion of the team. There are several key questions surrounding the signing of Cozart, so how big of an improvement is he?

The Angels already have defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons playing shortstop, and he won’t be going anywhere. Instead, Cozart has agreed on a switch to third base, a position he has never played in the major leagues. This signing would make more sense to me if Cozart would be providing a big upgrade over Kaleb Cowart and Luis Valbuena, the other players listed to potentially play third base. If you look at the numbers from last year for Angels third baseman, Cozart only offers a large upgrade in one category.

Player Average RBI Home Runs Hits Runs
LA Third Basemen .238 (14th) 73 (14th) 21 (T-10th) 145 (11th) 77(11th)
Zack Cozart .297 63 24 130 80
AL Rank in Parentheses

Cozart had the breakout year many fantasy owners had been waiting on for quite some time. It always seemed the tools were there, but they never flourished. Or he would show streaks of great play for minimal stretches and then drop back to mediocre play at best. Cozart has never been much of a fantasy asset until this year. In the past five seasons, Cozart has averaged 112 hits, 23 doubles, 11 home runs and three stolen bases. Prior to this season, Cozart had a career average of .246 in six seasons. Even if you play in a standard 5x5 rotisserie league, he has had little to no value outside of deeper leagues. In 2016, teammate Eugenio Suarez ranked higher than Cozart and is likely to take his place at shortstop in Cincinnati.

I have concerns over the switch from shortstop to third base for Cozart, especially considering he has never played the position at the major league level. Making the move from short to third is probably one of the easier transitions to make in the field, but it can be different in terms of how you control the infield. The shortstop is considered the quarterback of the infield and typically controls the infield and takes charge on any play he can get to. Now Cozart must defer to perennial Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons. These are all things Cozart will need to become accustomed to while trying to fulfill the obligations of a large contract based on one solid year. Baseball is such a mental game that this may not seem like much to us, but it could be something that gives Cozart troubles. There will also be a difference in ballparks as well. Cozart will leave Great American Ballpark which averages 1.094 home runs per game and head to Angel Stadium which averages 0.971 home runs per game. After setting a career high in home runs in 2017 with 24, it’s likely he comes closer to his career average then building on it.

The biggest concern with Cozart is his health. Since 2012, Cozart is only averaging 122 games per season and he hasn’t played in more than 130 games since 2014. There are some players you are willing to take a chance on regardless of injury history. Troy Tulowitzki was one such player during a stretch. You knew he was going to be injured, but you didn’t know when or for how long. The numbers he put up while healthy though were good enough to risk that. Cozart doesn’t come close to fitting that mold.

What to expect

Cozart is not a player I am looking into buying this offseason, whether in a trade or a draft. His biggest upside this year will be his multiple position eligibility. Typically leagues will give players eligibility at a new position after 10 games. Those types of players are very valuable to a fantasy team as it may allow you the opportunity for a deeper bench. In this case though, depth is all I consider Cozart to be. In dynasty leagues, I don’t view Cozart as a long-term option at third base. With the position switch, Cozart will be moving to a much deeper position with strong bats and in fantasy, offense is the only thing that matters. Cozart could offer you some depth and flexibility in 2018, but will not offer much moving forward. It is also likely that Cozart will find a new place in the batting order. Last year Cozart had 378 at bats from the second spot and 68 at bats hitting sixth or lower in the order. If Cozart can get off to a fast start, there is always a possibility he could find himself hitting higher, but for now I see a potential Angels lineup looking like this.

  1. Ian Kinsler - 2B
  2. Kole Calhoun - RF
  3. Mike Trout - CF
  4. Justin Upton - LF
  5. Albert Pujols - 1B
  6. Shohei Ohtani - DH
  7. Andrelton Simmons - SS
  8. Zack Cozart - 3B
  9. Martin Maldonado - C

If Cozart finds himself in the lower portion of the order, he’s not going to have as many opportunities for RBIs or runs scored. Cozart just won’t carry any of the value he had in 2017 over to the 2018 season. He won’t be asked to do much in a lineup stacked with star power, and I don’t expect much either. For those dynasty owners out there, make a hard pass on Cozart. No reason to spend a pick on him. For those in redraft leagues, Cozart could help this year due to his extra eligibility. Just be wise with where you believe you will take him.

 

More 2018 Player Outlooks

 

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