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Phils pick Cozens has 'extraordinary power'

PHILADELPHIA -- In a workout at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, 18-year-old Dylan Cozens hit the ball all over the field and captivated the Phillies' brass with eight to 10 home runs, including two in the upper deck and several to the opposite field.

The kid can hit.

"He made a great impression here," Phillies assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever said. "He really swung the bat well and really handled himself well. I think he answered a lot of questions."

So much so that on Tuesday, Philadelphia made the power-hitting Cozens, a left-handed outfielder from Chaparral High School in Arizona, its first pick of the second round in the First-Year Player Draft. Cozens, listed at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, was selected 77th overall, the second of two compensatory picks the Phillies received for losing right-handed reliever Ryan Madson to free agency.

He was the first position player drafted by the Phillies, projecting as a right fielder.

"He was really interesting," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "That was probably the guy I was most excited about. This is a kid that people knew about, but were kind of off of for whatever reason. I love the guy's power. Extraordinary power for a kid -- great body, runs well, seems to move pretty well, looks like a pretty decent athlete."

Cozens, who also worked out for the Rangers and was said to be high on their Draft board, was watching the Draft on the Internet when his name was called. His emotions at that moment?

"Relieved and happy," Cozens said succinctly by phone.

"I'd say definitely one of the best [days of my life]."

Cozens had committed to Arizona to play both baseball and football -- as a defensive end -- but he said on Tuesday that he will sign with the Phillies instead. He hit a state-leading 19 home runs in his senior season, breaking the school's record of 13 long balls set by current Major Leaguer Paul Konerko.

"That speaks pretty highly in itself," Wolever said.

Cozens led Chaparral to the Division I state title, clinching the championship with a walk-off, opposite-field home run. On Tuesday, a smiling Wolever compared Cozens' opposite-field hitting capabilities to Ryan Howard's.

Cozens, who has been described as low key and grounded, said he is a hard worker and just wants to be "an everyday MLB player one day."

Chaparral hitting coach Randy Ford lauded Cozens' dedication to baseball.

"He worked very, very hard," Ford said by phone. "Dylan won a state football title on a Saturday night, and on Monday night, he said, 'Coach, let's go work on hitting.' I tried to get him to take a few days off, and he wouldn't have it. That's his dedication."

His obvious athletic abilities aside, eligibility issues surrounded Cozens in high school. He was kicked off the team at Desert Mountain High School, according to reports, and transferred to Chaparral, where he was ruled ineligible for a year. More questions were raised after Cozens reportedly began playing for Chaparral before the full year of ineligibility had passed, but he was eventually ruled eligible.

The Phillies don't seem concerned with any possible character issues.

"We spend a lot of time on the makeup and the families, and we really believe that this kid's got what it takes," Wolever said. "We were sold enough to go ahead and make that choice."

"Yeah, I think he got into a couple tussles," Amaro said. "But that's OK. I don't have a problem with that."

Aside from the perceived makeup issues, Ford said some Major League clubs might have not had as much interest in Cozens because he also played football.

"My dialogue with Dylan was he definitely wanted to do this," Ford said of Cozens' desire to play professional baseball. "This is the day that he wanted to see happen. I'm very happy for him."

The Phillies are happy to have him.

"This guy bounced around a little bit," Wolever said. "People got on him late. People heard all of the information, [but] they didn't do their homework. They didn't find out what he was made of and his character. And we did. Once we saw him play, we thought this is a guy that we really have a lot of interest in, so let's find out everything else that goes with it. And I think we have. And we feel really good about the selection."

Philadelphia Phillies