Cozens couples power and athleticism

Cozens couples power and athleticism

You couldn't even see his face. At 6-foot-6, his 235-pound, built-like-a-lineman frame towered over you from the top step of the first-base dugout at FirstEnergy Stadium, his head cut out of sight by the dugout roof.

Dylan Cozens was a day away from going in San Diego for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, during which he'd put the most balls over the wall of anyone in batting practice despite being surrounded by baseball's highest ranked prospects, despite the fact that he doesn't even crack the top 10 in MLBPipeline.com's ranking of the Phillies' system.

But before he made the cross-country voyage, the Minors' most prolific power hitter had one more three-hit night in him. Single. Triple. Home run. Reading, the best team in professional baseball -- with as many wins at the All-Star break as the 116-win 2001 Mariners -- hit blackjack in the runs column last Friday. The victim? David Hess and the Bowie Baysox -- just another in a line of teams unable to quiet the bats of Cozens or his Fightin' Phils teammates, who have scored in double digits 14 times this season and average nearly six runs a game.

Cozens' 24 home runs are second only in the Minors to the 25 put up by the man who hits behind him, first baseman Rhys Hoskins. At the Major League level, only three teams have hit fewer home runs than the Phillies the past two seasons.

"I've always been able to hit the ball a long way," Cozens says.

He's also always been the tall one. And the athletic one. But only more recently has he been the big one.

His defensive tackle of a father, Randy, had him doing daily pushups since before he can remember -- he could do 100 at a time as a 10-year-old, though he hasn't tried recently. But only toward the middle of his high school career did Cozens start to fill out. During his senior season at Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Ariz., he broke the school's single-season home run record, set by Paul Konerko.

At 22, Randy was in his final season of a four-year career as a defensive lineman at the University of Pittsburgh. A year away from being drafted by (but never playing for) the Denver Broncos, he checked in at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. Dylan, now 22, was gifted with his father's size and athleticism, but he is thankful for more than just his fortunate genealogy.

"[My father] was always tough on me," Cozens said. "You try to take that same 'football tough' mentality to every sport you play, just hustle and be aggressive."

About that football mentality. Cozens, rated a three-star defensive end, passed on football scholarship offers from Arizona, Washington and Boise State to sign with the Phillies out of high school. Between baseball and football seasons, Cozens played basketball, too. The trifecta onot only helped Cozens build athleticism, it is the definition of it, Cozens says: "Being able to be versatile, have different forms of hand-eye coordination, speed, power; stuff like that I feel is what athleticism is all about."

Ninety games into the Double-A season, Cozens' 24 home runs are paired with 16 stolen bases. Only three times in Major League history has a player his size swiped that many bags throughout a 162-game schedule.

Cozens doesn't like being asked if he has outgrown Double-A. It's not up to him, so why focus on it? Anyway, there is more to work on, despite what an initial glance at his numbers may indicate. Only four of his home runs have come against left-handers, against whom he is hitting .186. His slugging percentage at FirstEnergy Stadium, historically a hitter's park, is double what it is away from home.

He also doesn't remember much of his post-Draft BP session at Citizens Bank Park, during which he reportedly parked a couple of balls in the upper deck. It prompted then-general manager Ruben Amaro to describe Cozens as having "extraordinary power." Since then he's hit 62 regular-season homers.

Tommy Joseph, a fellow Arizonan, is excited for the day Cozens returns to Citizens Bank Park, this time as a big leaguer rather than a draftee.

"He'll hit balls further to left than I will," the right-handed-hitting Joseph says. "He's not a very fun guy to take BP with, just a fun guy to watch."

Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.