Count me as a fan of St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, but also as a firm non-believer.
Kozma has dazzled in his first 100-plus plate appearances in the big leagues, but I’m still not convinced he can be the productive player he’s been so far through a full season. He’s plugging a hole that might have been tough to fill this year after Rafael Furcal went down. Shaky Daniel Descalso can play the position, but he’s shown he is a less productive player than I’d expect Kozma to be.
Consider this–Kozma has played two full seasons in both Double-A and Triple-A and has never hit above .243. In fact, his wOBA over those four years is .288. And his total slash line for those those seasons–.226/.279/.335. If I didn’t know any better, I’d be wondering what the Cardinals were thinking moving the guy up.
The fortune for Kozma is the lack of depth. There really is no prospect waiting in the wings at short for St. Louis. But nonetheless, Kozma has rose above the challenge and played above his head.
Or at least that is what it seems to be. It could be Kozma is just one of those players who became almost listless playing against lower-tier talent. After all, Kozma was the number one pick for St. Louis in 2007, so he has to have a good pedigree of talent, right? Possibly, though, results were mixed this spring as he faced mostly what could be considered ‘Quad-A’ type pitching.
You could attribute Kozma’s early success to the ‘Cardinal Way’ and mentality, but how far can that carry a guy who hasn’t proved that he can hit better than the major league average consistently? Another player you could point to having a similar rise to Kozma is Boston Red Sox‘s Jackie Bradley Jr., though, I don’t expect his success to last either.
I really want to think that Kozma has the ability to prove me and his numbers wrong, but I’ve already noticed signs in his game that may point to an oncoming decline. Maybe Kozma needs this kind of negativity to flourish, but if Cardinal Nation keeps feeding him the complements, ‘The Wizard of Koz’s’ emerald city could soon turn to his personal kryptonite.