Pete Kozma has been a firebrand for conversation since he joined the Cardinals in the 2007 MLB draft out of high school. Everyone wanted the Cardinals to bust their budget and grab heralded high school pitcher, Rich Porcello. Consequently, Kozma has had a target on his back amongst prospect watchers for 5 years. This offseason, Kozma sits in limbo and let’s take a look at where he stands going into the 2012 season.
(Sorry, with no time to Photoshop, this is the best I can do. Anyone else who can do better, please drop a link to your handiwork in the comments.)
Sometimes it is very easy to see what an organization thinks of a prospect. They clear the way for his path to the majors and don’t sign minor league free agents (or major league free agents) at his position. The Cardinals won’t come out and say it publicly, but they have lost confidence in Mr. Kozma and it plays out in fine print on the page named “Transactions”.
2009 MLB Draft – The Cardinals draft SS Ryan Jackson in the 5th round.
Dec 2011 – The Cardinals sign SS Rafael Furcal to a two year deal.
Feb 2012 – The Cardinals sign SS Alex Cora to a minor league contract.
With those three contracts, Kozma is getting pressure a level below him in Ryan Jackson who plays better defense and had a higher OPS in Springfield than he did. Kozma is blocked above him at the major league level as the Cardinals signed Rafael Furcal to play shortstop in the majors for the next two seasons. They wouldn’t have signed Furcal if they didn’t believe anyone was ready to play full time at shortstop from the farm until 2014. And to top it all off the Cardinals are putting pressure on Kozma at his own level by signing Alex Cora to a minor league contract.
It will be very interesting to see how the Cardinals handle this jam up over the next two seasons. Jackson is ready to be the everyday shortstop at Memphis. The Cardinals probably wouldn’t have signed Alex Cora to be a bench player in Memphis and Rafael Furcal is ensconced at shortstop for St. Louis for the next two years.
Obviously, there are major league bench spots available, but with players like Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso, who can both play shortstop if needed and who have actually hit in the minor leagues, that direction looks bleak as well. Pete Kozma’s numbers don’t support the reasoning for the Cardinals to get him up to the big club to help out. He had an absolutely dreadful season last year with a 75 wOBA+ and he hasn’t had above average (100) wOBA+ since Quad Cities in 2008 (unless you count a 15 game stretch to start the season in 2009 at Palm Beach). A good season, albeit below average at the bandbox in Springfield in 2010 attempted to recharge his prospect-dom, but to no avail.
With 66 games at shortstop and 40 games at second in Memphis last year, the Cardinals seem to be moving him around to accommodate other players. If Kozma was the real deal, they would have moved other players around to get him all the playing time at short. But, alas he hasn’t hit and is slowly getting moved off of shortstop. And unfortunately, if he wasn’t a 1st round pick and a controversial one at that, he wouldn’t be a story year after year for his struggles.