Dylan Cozens made history last year at double-A Reading by blasting 40 home runs and driving in 125 runs, both of which are franchise records. He was the first Eastern League player to hit 40 home runs since Ron Kittle in 1981 and the first since 1961 to top 100 RBI and 100 runs scored in a single season.
A season for the record books called for a well-deserved promotion to Lehigh Valley, just one step away from the show. But Cozens’ April numbers, hitting just .136 in 23 games, indicated that triple-A is a different animal than double-A.
“The triple-A pitchers have a better idea of commanding all their pitches,” Cozens said Saturday in an autograph appearance at Dynasty Sports and Framing at the Oxford Valley Mall. “They have a better idea of damage control; they don’t want to leave too much over the plate if they don’t have to. They’re going to prey on your weaknesses. They’re going to keep attacking you until you can prove them that you can fix it. They’re more polished.”
The saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” sums up Cozens’ season to a tee, to this point. Once the calendar flipped to May, the slugger has blossomed. He’s slashing .391/.447/.756 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 11 games. One of those home runs was a moonshot, a walkoff for the Pigs on Thursday.
“I’ve made some adjustments, mental and physical,” Cozens said of his May turnaround. “Just getting better, just adjusting to how they’re pitching me and a couple of mechanical adjustments. Nothing crazy.”
The Arizona native still has a ton to improve on before he makes the jump. One glaring flaw of his game is his strikeouts. Last season, in 134 games, the slugger struck out 186 times. He struck out 40 times in April of this year. But the hot-hitting Cozens has struck out just eight times in the month of May. Perhaps his adjustments are paying off.
As often talked about, the Phils have one of the best minor league systems in the game. In particular, there’s a logjam in the outfield with current players and others on the way vying for spots. Cozens is in the mix with triple-A teammates Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Cameron Perkins; Carlos Tocci and Andrew Pullin in double-A; and later down the line, former No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak. That’s before factoring in Odubel Herrera and the emerging Aaron Altherr, who’re already establishing themselves in Philadelphia as we speak. The competition is there for fans and the media to talk about, but Cozens says he’s not occupied with it.
“I don’t even think of it as pressure or even competition,” he said. “I know that if I go out there and perform to the best of my abilities, I’m always going to have a place to play baseball. I wish the best for those guys and I’m sure they wish the best for me as well, but we’re going out there and trying to win. That’s what it’s about. We’re not necessarily trying to beat each other. We all have the same goal and we’re doing our best to strive towards it.”