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Milwaukee Brewers sign Dylan Cozens and Hoby Milner to minor league contracts

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Both players get an invite to big league camp.

Philadelphia Phillies v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Brewers have yet to make any impact moves for their MLB roster heading into 2021, but the club has been active in adding depth at the upper levels of their newly-revamped minor league system. The team recently inked a pair of former Philadelphia prospects to minor league pacts, with both players receiving an invitation to big league camp in Spring Training:

Dylan Cozens, 26, began his professional career in 2012 as a second-rounder of the Phillies. He has consistently raked during eight minor league seasons, batting a cumulative .252/.329/.473 with 134 home runs across 747 games. The left-handed hitter was consistently rated as one of the top-30 prospects in Philadelphia’s organization by Baseball America, earning recognition every year from 2013-2018 and getting named as the best power hitter in the system in 2018 and 2019. Cozens led the minors with 40 home runs in 2016 and he was described in 2018 as “one of the strongest players in the minors and generates plus-plus raw power. Cozens generates extreme lift in his swing, so when he squares up a pitch he’s a threat to put it over the fence to any part of the park, and he does have solid plate patience.”

Cozens has demonstrated a solid walk rate, earning a free pass in 10% of his minor league plate appearances. But like many other minor league power hitters, Cozens has had issues with swing-and-miss. He’s punched out 29.2% of the time during his MiLB career, and during his parts of two MLB seasons with Philadelphia in 2018-19, he whiffed in 24 of his 45 plate appearances with an accompanying .154/.267/.282 slash line.

Cozens has stolen 106 bases during his time in the minors, including a single-season high of 23, and it’s been written that he “moves surprisingly well for his size, with average speed underway, and he’s worked his way to become a solid defender on the corners.” Cozens dealt with a foot injury that required surgery in 2019 and led to his release on August 1st of that year, then he signed with the Rays on a two-year minor league contract about a week later. Cozens spent 2020 at Tampa Bay’s alternate training site but never was called up to the big league roster. He became a free agent at the conclusion of the season and will now get a look in Spring Training with the Brewers. If things don’t work out with his big league career, BA has previously suggested of Cozens that “if he can’t cut down on his strikeouts, he could go on to a big career in Japan.”

Hoby Milner, who turns 30 in January, was a seventh-round pick of the Philles in 2012 who has appeared in parts of four MLB seasons with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and the Los Angeles Angels. A southpaw who has functioned mostly as a specialist during his big league career, Milner posted strong results as a rookie in 2017, when he finished with a 2.01 ERA 31.1 innings covering 37 appearances. His peripherals didn’t line up with those bottom-line numbers though, and Milner has struggled to prevent runs during his MLB stints since then. In a total of 74 games and 55.2 innings pitched, Milner owns a 4.53 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 28 walks.

Milner comes after batters with a sinker/curveball mix, with his heat averaging 88.2 MPH during his work with the Angels in 2020. He’ll also occasionally mix in a changeup. Despite prominently featuring his sinker (63% career usage rate) Milner hasn’t generated a high rate of ground balls (40.6%) in the big leagues and has had issues allowing home runs (1.6 HR/9). Right-handed hitters at the game’s highest level have hammered the lefty to the tune of a .337/.442/.581 slash line, but he’s held same-handed batters to a much more useful .209/.306/.372 line. Milner does have a very solid minor league track record, including a 3.08 ERA with 11.5 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 across 123 appearances and 146.0 frames at the Triple-A level. With Alex Claudio recently signing with the Angels, he and Milner could ostensibly be swapping LOOGY roles, although Hoby will have to win a job with the Brewers in camp.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs