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For seasoned minor league watchers, the Pete Kozma phenomenon has been just a little difficult to take in.
Because Pete Kozma has been a first-round disappointment for some literally from the moment he was drafted—ahead of 2007 draft star Rick Porcello, who'd fallen improbably to the St. Louis Cardinals' perch in the middle of the first round. He's been a draft bust for everyone else since at least 2011, when he hit .214/.280/.289 in the AAA Pacific Coast League. As recently as a month-and-a-half ago, he was the Memphis Redbirds' utility infielder. Now he's the Cardinals' presumptive postseason shortstop.
He's a surer thing than Bo Hart, at least, and unlike Daniel Descalso he's a genuine shortstop. But it's worth remembering just how recently Pete Kozma was still nothing more than a draft cautionary tale. Behind Ryan Jackson on the depth chart at shortstop, Kozma hit just .232/.292/.355 in 131 games for Memphis, as a 24-year-old on his second try in the league.
That's really, really bad. Among PCL regulars, it was the third-worst OPS in the league. It might be that Kozma is better than that, but there's little in his minor league record to suggest it; we're left to weigh 24 outstanding games in the major leagues against 671 minor league games, over six seasons, in which he's hit a combined .236/.308/.344.
But however inept he might really be on offense, the Cardinals have buried Ryan Jackson on the bench, and Descalso-Kozma is a major-enough defensive upgrade over Skip Schumaker-Descalso to make the decision almost defensible. I'm okay with Kozma for the rest of the season, should the Cardinals clinch a play-in berth, but I'll be saying some extra prayers for Rafael Furcal's health going into 2013.