TCN 2012 Cardinals Prospect #35: Pete Kozma

Coming off his 2011 MLB debut, can the former first-rounder build career momentum in his second shot at Triple-A in 2012?

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
14 SS 4/11/1988 6-0 170 R R 2007 1st

School: Owasso HS (Owasso, OK)

Selected 2011 stats

MEM 0.214 398 48 85 17 2 3 47 36 91 2 0.280 0.289 0.569
STL 0.176 17 2 3 1 0 0 1 4 4 0 0.333 0.235 0.569

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (44): Pete Kozma didn't totally overcome the ghost of Rick Porcello in 2011, but by simply making it to the major leagues he did at least lighten the monkey on his back. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to keep him from dropping in the rankings from 17 to 35.

Statistically, his numbers dropped precipitously in 2011 as he moved up from Double-A to Triple-A. However, his power drop between the two levels was most likely simply the difference between no longer playing in the hitter-friendly atmosphere of Springfield and playing half his games in Memphis. Another thing that hurt his stats in 2011 was a drop in his BABIP. A bright spot in his 2011 season was that he was able to show his versatility by playing various infield positions and prove that he can be useful as a utility player as well as simply a shortstop.

Kozma was actually young for his league in 2011 so there is some reason to hope for improvement in 2012. His chances of making the major league team out of spring training would seem remote based on his performance last year, but if Ryan Theriot is not retained and Skip Schumaker is either non-tendered or returned to the outfield then Kozma would simply have a shot - depending on who else the Cardinals might sign.

More likely, however, will be Kozma returning to Memphis where he will also face competition from up and coming Ryan Jackson, Jose Garcia and any minor league free agent infielder the Cards might sign. In other words, Kozma no longer has an unencumbered path to St. Louis and any system seniority will pale compared to his actual results when it comes to him advancing to the majors again in 2012.

Message board community (33): Pete Kozma suffered one of the larger slides in our community rankings. He was the community's 16th ranked prospect last year, but fell to 33rd this year. He was first mentioned in consideration for being the 30th prospect.

The big concern about Kozma has largely been his bat. In 2010, he managed a passable .702 OPS in his second year at Springfield. But that dropped to .569 this year at Memphis, his lowest full-season OPS in the pros. We've been talking about Kozma for a long time - he took his first at-bats for the organization in 2007 - but it's worth remembering that he was just 23 last year. His second season at Double-A, he raised his OPS by .102. Perhaps this coming year he can do the same in his second season in Triple-A, though he showed little improvement from before the all-star break last year (OPS of .563) to after (OPS of .577).

The righty-hitting Kozma had considerably more success versus lefties (.348/.390/.738) than righties (.248/.244/.492). Perhaps he has a future as a platoon partner and defensive sub for the middle infield. I've found it telling that his name has not come up in discussion for shortstop coverage going forward. Jackson, playing at a lower level, has gotten more attention. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (41): One year ago at this time, I said the following. "Though Kozma seemed miles away from St. Louis not that long ago, the reality of the middle infield depth at the upper levels of the system is such that he may be just a slump or injury away from making his major league debut."

Not bad, if I may say so myself. ‘So what?' you might respond. ‘He made his debut but did nothing. He seems to have no momentum. What is next?'

Well, from my vantage point at least, the crystal ball is very cloudy. Last year, Kozma was still 14th on my personal list. After his very uninspiring fifth-year-in-the-system 2011, I reversed the digits for his placement on the 2012 rankings. In other words, he didn't make my current top 40. I really wonder if Kozma would be mentioned here at all except for the lingering hope that his first-round potential will finally emerge.

It is good that he has shown he can handle second base in addition to short, as Kozma seems destined for a utility role. The bad news is that it could very well be in Memphis in 2012 and beyond rather than in St. Louis. I could see an accelerated fade from the spotlight underway that may not be checked. Another season comparable to 2011 and his 40-man roster spot will surely be at high risk.

As noted above, a hotter prospect is on the way up, which is similar to Mark Hamilton's challenge at first base with Matt Adams. If Ryan Jackson continues on his current course, he could help stall the part of Kozma's career not already stalled by the player himself.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

There's more! Want access to the all details behind our Cardinals prospect rankings in our "Forty Days, Forty Nights, Forty Prospects" feature here at The Cardinal Nation?

Monthly and quarterly subscribers who upgrade to our annual pass will receive in the spring the 2012 FOX Fantasy Guide / Scout Prospect Guide, regularly $4.95 at newsstands nationwide, for FREE. The perfect hardcopy companion to "Forty Days" includes the top prospects from all 30 MLB organizations and much more. We author the Cardinals section of the guide as always.

© 2011 The Cardinal Nation, and All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories