It’s not news that the shortstop question has not been settled to any satisfactory level in recent years. There’s a similar number that’s been bandied around before but by my quick count, Brandon Phillips has keystone-comboed with 16 separate shortstops in his time with the Reds, and that’s just for starting games. The list doesn’t inspire much confidence: Clayton, Olmedo, Aurilia, Lopez, Castro, Keppinger, Sutton, Rosales, Hairston, Gonzalez, Cabrera, Valaika, Renteria, Janish, Valdez.
That’s a sad state of things in the Reds franchise. If you look at opening day starters since 1918, which is all the data has, shortstop is the position that’s been the most consistent (at least on opening day). 55 different men have started in left field on opening day, and 32 different first baseman – but only 30 men (the least at any position) have been Reds opening day shortstops since 1918. That list is led by Barry Larkin with 17 years, and Davey Concepcion with 15 – but even the consistency of the McMillan era, or Leo Cardenas would be a welcome change to the ephemeral quality our shortstops have taken on lately.
Lately, I’ve been considering whether or not Zach Cozart is the answer to that question. Right out the gate, it seemed like Zack was the answer to all our prayers – swatting triples and homers like nobody’s business. Even then, I expected a certain amount of regression. Nothing would suggest that Cozart would be a .900 hitter. In fact, the minor league history supports the .699 OPS more, probably.
But really, maybe that’s not so bad. It’s not good, and we’re all hoping that the next few years/months/weeks see some improvement. But looking around the league, at least Cozart isn’t rock bottom, like Janteria was last year. When you give him the benefit of his defensive numbers, he comes out just outside of the top half. I guess a good shortstop is just hard to find.
Of course, those defensive numbers aren’t sacrosanct. Most commentators have been impressed with Cozart’s defense, but it’s still not a perfect science. In any case, I’m willing to give Cozart a pass as long as things don’t get any worse.