TAMPA, Fla. -- Matt Stairs has said very little this spring to Dylan Cozens."Why would I?" Stairs said.Cozens, 22, is the No. 9 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com. The outfielder hit .276 with 40 home runs, 125 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, a .591 slugging percentage and a .941
TAMPA, Fla. -- Matt Stairs has said very little this spring to Dylan Cozens.
"Why would I?" Stairs said.
Cozens, 22, is the No. 9 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com. The outfielder hit .276 with 40 home runs, 125 RBIs, 21 stolen bases, a .591 slugging percentage and a .941 OPS last season with Double-A Reading. He led the Minor Leagues in home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits (83) and total bases (308). Cozens, who is expected to open the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, set Reading's single-season home run record, earning the Eastern League MVP Award and a spot on the SiriusXM MLB All-Star Futures Game roster.
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"He had unbelievable numbers last year, so why even tinker with that? Why?" Stairs said. "I'm not the type of guy that has to put my thumbprint on him."
Cozens, who went 0-for-1 with a strikeout in Friday's 9-4 loss to the Yankees, has settled into a swing that could have him in the big leagues before the end of the season. It took some experimentation to get to that point, but Cozens said he has been comfortable with his swing for the past year.
"I feel like I've changed 100,000 times," Cozens said. "I've been completely different. Way different. Everything: Stance, hand placement, timing, swing, you name it."
Cozens mimicked some of his previous stances this week at Spectrum Field. An early version had a bat waggle, almost like Darryl Strawberry or Gary Sheffield. In another, the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder seemed to crouch like Pete Rose.
Other looks followed. But Cozens found affirmation with what he wanted to do when he watched Barry Bonds videos and a hitting tutorial with Blue Jays slugger Josh Donaldson on MLB Network.
The result is a leg kick and hands that hold the bat more upright than flat.
"It was fun watching [Donaldson] break down his swing physically, seeing how balanced he was," Cozens said. "He was able to get everything loaded and get everything ready so he was ready to attack the ball with everything that he had.
"Keeping the hands loose. Keeping the arms loose. Not trying to over-swing."
Cozens crushed a home run to center field through the wind on Thursday in an exhibition against the University of Tampa. The ball hit off the end of his bat. Stairs said Cozens thought he broke his bat.
"Stupid power," Stairs said.
So what gets Cozens to the big leagues this year? More of the same, really. Maybe more contact, too. He struck out 186 times in 586 plate appearances last year. (He also walked 61 times for a .350 on-base percentage.) Of course, if Cozens hits 40-plus homers, nobody will care about the strikeouts. Remember that Ryan Howard hit 284 home runs and struck out 1,194 times in 4,367 plate appearances in his prime from 2005-11.
"I think this offseason they put him a little closer to home plate, which they think will help him stay on pitches a little bit longer," Stairs said of Cozens. "I think he's a type of guy that could cut 60 strikeouts. He can be a 120- to 125-[strikeout] guy, which is fine if you're hitting 600 at-bats a year. But I don't want people comparing him to Adam Dunn. Adam Dunn was all or nothing. Cozens can flat out hit."
Said Cozens: "I feel like I've always got something to prove. I'm always trying to prove people wrong and get better, and if they've got a problem with my game, I'll try to show them it's not a problem."
In the meantime, Cozens just wants to stick in camp.
"I'm loving it so far," Cozens said. "I don't want to leave, so I'm going to do everything I can to try to stay."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.