A behind-the-scenes look at Dylan Cozens and the MLB draft
The winding, complicated journey for Chaparral outfielder Dylan Cozens ended on Tuesday when he was the 77th pick of the Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.
The interesting part, though, is how he got there.
Cozens’ senior season couldn’t have gone much better, as a two-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted the Firebirds to a 5-3 win over Brophy in the Division I baseball title game.
He finished the year with a .520 average, 19 home runs and 52 RBIs, with an on-base percentage of .591 and a slugging percentage of 1.240. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he seems to have the type of frame that can produce power on the professional level.
However, national publications and scouts did not seem overly thrilled with his draft prospects. Baseball America did not list Cozens among its 500 top players eligible for the draft, and he made the Arizona watch list as a pitcher, not a position player. Additionally, Cozens said he had no contact at all from five major league teams, so clearly a few organizations had no plans on drafting him.
There are reasons why Cozens was seen as a risky selection:
* He signed a scholarship to play football and baseball at Arizona. Cozens’ dad, Randy, played in the NFL, and Dylan showed flashes of becoming a difference-maker at defensive end. “Football was out there because he signed and did well, so they’re thinking, ‘Ahh, he’s going to go play football,’” Randy Cozens said.
* At 6-foot-5, Cozens profiles as a corner outfielder or a first baseman. That means he’s going to have to really mash the ball in the minor leagues because he will be playing at a premium offensive position. Some scouts worry about his swing getting too long and how it will translate to the professional level.
* Then, of course, there is the controversy surrounding Cozens’ transfer from Desert Mountain to Chaparral last year. According to sources, Cozens was kicked off the Desert Mountain team midway through the season, with the caveat that he could return as a senior if he met certain guidelines. But Randy wanted to find a place for Dylan to play immediately and took him to Chaparral. “My deal, as a father, I knew that your junior year sets up your senior year.,” he said. “These guys that went high, (Hamilton third baseman) Mitch Nay and all of them, they were showcased (over the summer) and had great junior years. (Dylan) didn’t have that. That’s why I made a beeline over here, trying to keep him playing. We came over here and we were hearing rumors that even these parents weren’t all that receptive. ‘Who is this kid? Who does he think he is? He thinks he’s going to come in here and take my kid’s spot?’ We weren’t welcomed by open arms. We said, you know what? We’ll sit this one out. So he just went and worked out.” Cozens was ruled ineligible for a calendar year and missed the second half of his junior season. Between the lack of visibility and the concerns about his makeup, it was enough for some teams to look elsewhere.
And while some organizations had no interest in Cozens, the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees were all intrigued. He worked out for Philadelphia and Texas over the weekend and then waited to see what would happen. He wasn’t selected in the first or supplemental rounds on Monday, but was chosen by the Phillies in the second round on Tuesday morning. Cozens was the second high schooler from Arizona taken, behind Nay, who went No. 58 overall.
Cozens has made it clear he intends to sign and forgo his scholarship to Arizona. And while he ended up in a pretty good situation with Philadelphia, he won’t soon forget the perceived slights he received from other major league teams.
“You’re not going to say I’m this really good player unless you’re out there watching me,” Cozens said. “I feel like (a lot of teams) missed out on me.”
In turn, Cozens believes Philadelphia will give him a clean slate, and he’s ready to repay that trust.
“They don’t care what anybody else thinks,” he said. “That’s good. That’s what I want.”