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Pete Kozma is the Cardinals’ starting shortstop

Mar 18, 2013, 10:47 AM EDT

Pete Kozma AP

There’s been no official announcement in the wake of Rafael Furcal‘s season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery, but manager Mike Matheny made it clear that Pete Kozma will be the Cardinals’ starting shortstop.

That’s no surprise, as Kozma played shockingly well down the stretch last season after stepping into the lineup for the injured Furcal and his only real competition for the job this spring is Ronny Cedeno.

However, based on his minor-league track record Kozma is going to be overmatched as a regular. Kozma has hit just .236 with a .308 on-base percentage and .344 slugging percentage in 671 games as a minor leaguer through age 24, including just .232 with a .292 OBP and .355 SLG in 131 games at Triple-A last season.

Aside from his 26-game stint with the Cardinals last season there’s nothing in Kozma’s track record to suggest he can handle major-league pitching and in fact based on his production at Triple-A he projects as one of the majors’ worst hitters. Assuming he turns back into a pumpkin it’ll be interesting to see how long of a leash Kozma’s late-season magic buys him.

  1. proudlycanadian - Mar 18, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    So which experienced middle infielder will they pick up to be his backup?

  2. alexo0 - Mar 18, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    No need. Watching the playoffs, Kozma is the SS of the future for St.L. Dude is awesome. Put the nail in the coffin vs the Nats. His praises could not be sung enough by the national media. Everyone knows it was Holliday’s fault that ball dropped vs. ATL. Not sure why this was even in doubt.

    • ajcardsfan - Mar 18, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      I’m going to have to disagree. While he might have just been having rookie jitters, he made quite a few bad calls on his own last season.

  3. albertmn - Mar 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Well, if Matt Carpenter lands the starting 2nd base job, they project to have solid to very good hitters at every other defensive position. You don’t need All-Star hitters at every spot to win. If Kozma can play well defensively and even match his minor league .236/.308/.344 the Cards can live with that for at least half a season. Kozma is a young guy, and maybe he if finally getting it. If he hit .250/.315/.360 with good defense, I think St Louis would be thrilled. If he can’t hit, and he seems to be the one hold up to a playoff run, they can likely find a SS to trade for later (and likely give up fewer prospects to do it).

    • recoveringcubsfan - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:13 PM

      I think your key error is the part about how Kozma could provide solid defense. He is not a good SS. Full (short?)stop. I had the pleasure of watching him during most of his late-season surge last year and he was abominable at short; he booted several balls that were not charged to him as errors; regardless, he committed 3 errors in 22 starts. That’s not great. He also has bad hands (subjective, I know) and I think he receives the ball too close to his feet and consequently handcuffs himself when fielding grounders. And as for his postseason red-hot bat, he was hitting 8th and nobody took him seriously. In the playoffs, there’s really no excuse to throw meatballs to even a dire hitter like Kozma, but that’s what happened, plus some luck for the kid (and good for him and all). But nobody’s going to groove it to him this year and combined with his sub-par fielding he’s either going to be out of a job by June or else Matheny’s going to do what he does and declare that he’s sticking with Pete come hell or high water because by god David Eckstein, grit, and stuff.

      Lest anyone think I am hating on the Cards, I do have a serious question: why can’t Ryan Jackson play SS for this team? He was an amazing defender in college and his overall batting in the minors is Pujols-ian compared to Kozma’s. Why is he in AAA instead of Kozma?

      • stlouis1baseball - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:37 PM

        Wonderful question in regards to Jackson.
        No one seems to know what he did to fall so quickly out of favor.
        If anyone can shed some light on this I would appreicate it.

      • okwhitefalcon - Mar 18, 2013 at 6:43 PM

        The Jackson question was addressed in one of Derrick Gould’s chats a week or so ago.

        Paraphrasing Goold, “Both Kozma and Greg Garcia have passed him”. Goold also mentioned they thought his defense had regressed going to AAA from AA and he couldn’t hit enough to justify playing time.

        Moreover – Jackson’s not even going to start at SS in Memphis, Garcia is.

        That pretty much tells us what they think of him going forward.

  4. spudchukar - Mar 18, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    Your skepticism is valid Aaron, he was horrible in the minors. I believe he committed 34 errors in each of his first two minor league seasons, and has never hit very well at any level. That said, 26 games, and a measurable post season is nothing to ignore.

    Who knows if he can come close to his 2013 MLB stats? But watching him, warrants increased optimism. He plays fearlessly, has legitimate pop, runs extremely well, and at times can drive the ball the other way. And while he doesn’t have a great arm it is more than adequate, with above average range.

    I’ve said it before but if he can do a slightly above average job defensively, hit around .270 with 15-18 homers, drive in 65, and steal a dozen or so bases, the Cards should find themselves play-off bound, cause they have no other glaring question marks.

    • spudchukar - Mar 18, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      With two weeks remaining until the season openers, this is a smart move by the Cards. A little confidence boost, and the relaxation knowing it is your position to lose should serve Kozma well. He can prepare himself for April, not worry about the starting job and thus pressure himself with that concern.

      A couple of other pluses for Kozma, he can really turn on inside heat, a very difficult feat. So if he can harness the opposite field form he showed at times, he could become a legitimate offensive threat. A hitter that can make adjustments and cannot be pitched to the same way becomes a tough out, what all hitters should strive to be.

      He also has quick feet, charges the ball well, can throw off-balanced, all the skills somebody saw back when he was a first-round pick. With more coaching, and encouragement he also has 20 steal potential. In the end, he has the skills, the question remains can he consistently put them all to good use.

    • okwhitefalcon - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:07 PM

      I think the Cards brass would be cleaning themselves up with Kleenex and smoking cigs if Koz
      “hit around .270 with 15-18 homers, drive in 65, and steal a dozen or so bases”.

      Hell, they’ll be happy if he hits .240 and plays adequate in the field.

      As for no other glaring question marks, I think they’re much more concerned about starting pitching than they are SS at this point.

      • recoveringcubsfan - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:21 PM

        I think that anyone who wants to argue that a .236 BA across 2,700 (yes, 2,700) minor league ABs is outweighed by 26 games at the end of last season is insane. Very few players “figure it out” in the majors after failing to figure it out for 6 minor league seasons. That would truly be incredible and would pretty much be the last word on the intelligence of scouts. If Pete Kozma becomes a .270 hitter and a good defensive SS then scouting and analysis are total bunk and we might as well all buy lottery tickets and let our worst AAA players take over for our MLB regulars, because who the heck knows.

      • spudchukar - Mar 18, 2013 at 6:29 PM

        Your analysis of Kozma’s defense performance in 2012, is curious to me. I seldom miss an inning, much less a Card’s game. As a former middle infielder in the Cards’ system, I believe I have some credibility here, and either you live in a different universe or your analysis of Kozma’s play is blindly inaccurate.

        As I have said before, no one, I repeat no one, was more critical of Kozma’s minor league performance than yours truely, but that was based solely on stats. Watching him in September changed my mind completely. He is aggressive, fearless in his defensive play, can make all the plays. He has no weakness, with quick feet being his primary asset, that and the fact that he gets rid of the ball in a hurry.

        In 2011 and 2012, the Cards kept him on there 40 man roster, much to my chagrin. But they kept the faith, and hats off to them. It is true that few players “figure it out in the majors’, but it has happened, and so far it has happened for Kozma. If he fails, I will be the first to point out his short comings, but as of now, he deserves a shot until June.

  5. stlouis1baseball - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Happy…Happy…Joy…Joy.

    *s/
    /s*
    */s
    S/*
    *S/
    /S*
    Phuq it: I am using sarcasm everyone. I am not happy and I am not joyful.

  6. mscxvd - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    he reminds me alot of bo hart. I sure hope he does better

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