Zack Cozart, SS, Reds
What’s up: Maybe Zack Cozart will ride into Coors Field on a donkey when the Reds open a four-game series against the Rockies on Monday. In case you missed it, teammate Joey Votto, the Reds’ slugging first baseman, promised to buy Cozart a donkey if Cozart gets a starting spot in the All-Star Game. “I don’t know why I like donkeys so much,” Cozart recently told MLB Network radio. “Maybe because they look like they’re real chill.” Wednesday, Votto made one final push before allstar voting closed. Votto dressed in a donkey costume and held up a sign that stated “Vote Cozart” during an interview on the field at Great American Ball Park. Cozart stood next to him with a T-shirt that stated: “Life is better with a donkey.”
Background: Cozart, 31, is having a career year, even though the Reds entered the weekend in last place in the National League Central with a 33-45 record. He was scheduled to come off the 10-day disabled list the weekend after suffering a strained quadriceps. With a batting line of .320/.404/.562, Cozart held a lead of more than 250,000 votes over Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, but Seager was closing the gap as voting closed Thursday night.
Saunders’ take: Cozart is one of the best fielding shortstops in the National League, but he had never been a great hitter until this season. He’s a career .252 hitter with a .700 OPS (on-base percentage, plus slugging), but his OPS this season is .966. Rebuilding Cincinnati has a lot of young infield talent in its farm system, so Cozart could be on the trade block. The Reds came close to trading him to Seattle last summer before the deal fell through in the final hour. But a trade might not be easy to swing now, because contending teams seem set at shortstop. Meanwhile, Cozart had a change of heart about his possible all-star gift. “I should have started with a Lamborghini,” he told WCOP radio. “But I like donkeys so much, maybe a donkey is my Lamborghini.”