St. Louis Cardinals: Old Cards Faces in Brand New Places
Pete Kozma was selected in the 1st round (18th) overall in the 2007 MLB draft by the Cardinals. The Owasso, OK native elected to sign with the Cardinals out of Owasso High School, to the tune of a $1.395 million signing bonus.
Kozma spent 2007 and 2008 playing in rookie and A ball before joining Springfield at 21 years of age in 2009. Kozma never hit higher that .243 in 2009 or 2010, but moved up to Memphis to start the 2011 season thanks to his elite defensive ability at the shortstop position.
Kozma was a September call-up in 2011, where he recorded three hits in 17 at-bats. He spent the majority of 2012 in Memphis where he turned in just a .232/.292/.355 slash line over 500 plate appearances.
He did show promise during brief stints with the big club during the 2012 season, as he slashed .333/.383/.569 with five doubles, three triples and a pair of long balls over 82 plate appearances.
Kozma’s performance at the tail end of the 2012 regular season and into the postseason earned him a shot at playing shortstop every day in 2013. Kozma was fantastic defensively, committing just nine errors in 397 attempts for a .984 fielding percentage.
Unfortunately, though, Kozma struggled mightily with the bat once again in 2013. He slashed just .217/.275/.273 over 448 plate appearances with the Cardinals that year.
Ahead of 2014, the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta to a three-year deal, relegating Kozma back to a backup shortstop role, at best.
Instead, Kozma spent virtually all of 2014 in Memphis. Again, Kozma struggled to hit AAA pitching, turning in a .248/.330/.372 slash line in 437 plate appearances. Kozma appeared in just 14 games with the big club in 2014.
In 2015, Kozma struggled the most offensively that he has in his professional career. Since Kozma was out of Minor League options, he spent all of 2015 with the big club serving as Peralta’s backup once again.
Kozma slashed just .152/.236/.152 without a single extra-base hit and two runs batted in over 111 plate appearances.
With the Cardinals showing very little interest in resigning the now 27-year-old shortstop this offseason, Kozma elected free agency. On December 4, the Yankees signed Kozma to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Kozma is not on their 40-man roster.
Kozma is as good as they come when it comes to playing the shortstop position defensively. He has plus range to both sides, remarkable footwork, and he possesses excellent arm strength that is needed at the position.
Unfortunately, he has been just about as bad of a hitter as he’s good at playing defense. If Kozma has any hope of developing some sort of Major League career, he is going to have to figure things out with the bat in some kind of way.
There is hope there, considering the compact and simple swing that Kozma has. Kozma’s lack of hitting never seemed to be as much of a mechanical issue as it was a simple lack of the ability to square up the baseball.