As minor league fans we grasp for hope and improvement in minor league players, and we often grasp on to little pieces of information in an effort to make sense of the chaos. This ranges from singular scouting reports from a singular person on a singular day or series* to a set of splits on a stats page. We are just looking for narrative and meaning. The player that has risen to the top of the narrative pile is Phillies Low-A right fielder Dylan Cozens.
The narrative coming out of the season was that Cozens built on first half successes into an outstanding second half, and from the surface if we take the triple slash line that looks fairly accurate.
My first question when I see this is to ask, what was different between the first and second half of the year? The first thing I do is look at the walk, strikeout rate, and isolated power to see if there is something being obscured by fluctuations in BABIP.
What we see here is a small drop in power, a slight uptick in walk rate, and a slightly larger uptick in strikeouts. None of these variances are outside of a good series and are not enough to say anything definitive. So next lets look at the batted ball profile. Was Cozens doing something that would indicate he was making better contact like a higher LD% or less ground balls?
What we find is not only did he not make any improvements, but he actually regressed in his batted ball profile from the first half to the second half. A pure batted balls finding holes we can look at the spray chart and see that during the first half of the year he had 4 infield hits and during the second half of the year he had 9 infield hits. Now I move on to my last statistical test, did he change where he was hitting the baseball.
Here is the spray chart for the first half of the year for Cozens:
And here is his second half spray chart:
What we see is that Cozens started pulling the ball more in the second half. In the first half he hit 4 of his 8 HRs to the opposite field and in the second half he only hit 1 of 8 the opposite way. Additionally we see him hitting those ground balls more to the pull side in the second half than he was in the first half.
Overall from a pure numbers perspective there is nothing to point to as an improvement by Cozens from the first half to the second half. I did not see Cozens in person during either half of the year so I can’t speak to how the swing looks or how he approaches the game and how that projects forward. There may be things different in the physical profile that indicate he will be a better player going forward. However, that evidence will come from in person looks because the numbers outside of the triple slash line do not point to any meaningful improvements or changes towards future success. This is of course the danger with scouting the stat line with arbitrary splits, it is easy to take a single number and turn it into an entire narrative.
Graphs from MLBFarm and Photo of Dylan Cozens by Baseball Betsy