Subtitle: Kozmanaut Fails to Leave Lower Atmosphere
In 2007, Pete Kozma was selected by the Cardinals as their first overall pick. There was much wailing and gnashing of the teeth (including here) due to Rick Porcello, who was widely regarded as the best high school arm, still being available. Even though Pete Kozma was no Rick Porcello, I doubt anyone predicted or hoped his time in the minors would be so thoroughly mediocre.
Kozma generally received good reviews at the time of the draft. He was considered a late first round pick or sandwich pick at the worst. The lack of middle infielders in the draft led some to believe that teams could reach a little. Baseball America said the following in 2007:
Kozma has no true standout tool, but he also has no glaring weakness. He grades out as average to slightly above-average in every tool except power, and he does have pop. His instincts help him play above his physical ability at bat, on the bases and in the field. He has good plate coverage and uses the entire field, projecting as a future No. 2 hitter in a big league lineup. Coming into the spring, some scouts questioned whether he’d be a long-term shortstop, but he has no doubters now. A Wichita State recruit, Kozma draws raves for his consistency and energy as well.
Drafted out of high school, Kozma started in Johnson City and Batavia in 2007. He was aggressively promoted through the system reaching Palm Beach in 2008 and Springfield in 2009 despite only having modest success at the plate.
With OPS that just squeaked over .700 in both 2008 & 20010, Kozma’s offense has been consistently tepid throughout the minors. Power was never his calling card but the inability to make consistent contact or draw a higher number of walks has left him with little to offer at the plate.
Billed as a true shortstop, Kozma has the physical abilities to field the position. Mentally, he’s been inconsistent and, at times, mistake prone. Questions of whether his struggles at the plate were spilling into the field are plausible if impossible to substantiate.
At 23, Kozma isn’t quite a lost cause. He’s still age appropriate for his level and perhaps even a touch young. Matt Carpenter who has enjoyed a good deal of praise and success at AAA is 25. It’s hard to argue, however, that his professional career hasn’t been a disappointment thus far. With Ryan Jackson performing well at Springfield, Kozma may face increased pressure in the near term to live up to his draft day potential. Time is no longer on his side and the Cardinals have a viable competitor rising through the ranks.