Continuing our look at the Mets’ options with the seventh overall pick in June’s amateur draft, today we’ll take a look at University of Arkansas infielder Zack Cox.
Weight: 215 lbs.
Position: Third Base / Second Base
What He Brings
Well, take a look at that batting line. The guy’s hitting .428. I’d say he’s a fairly promising hitter. And that’s certainly true. After hitting .266 with very good power last season, Cox has improved his contact rate tremendously, albeit at the expense of a little bit of that power. And if that power fully returns, he has the chance to be a great offensive player.
Go back and look at just how impressive that improvement is. Last year he batted .266 and struck out 65 times in roughly 219 plate appearances. So far in 241 plate appearances, he has 29 strikeouts. As I mentioned, the batting average is up to .428. What happened is he shortened up his swing and focused on just putting the bat on the ball, driving it into the alleys every chance he gets. Cox has good bat speed and a solid approach at the plate—he’ll wait for his pitch. I like his plate coverage, and he does a good job making adjustments on pitches. Really night and day after his 2009 performance.
And the good news is he’s got a bit of a track record. He was very well regarded in high school and was drafted in the 20th round by the Dodgers—if signability hadn’t been a question, he would’ve gone in the third or fourth round, probably. As a two-way prep player, I admired his line drive bat, approach, and power potential.
In the field, things are a little more nebulous, but he’s got okay reactions at third, fair hands, and enough arm for the position. Surprisingly, Arkansas has given him time at second this season, and it hasn’t been a disaster. He’s a hard worker, and I’ve even seen some scouts praise his footwork there recently. It will be interesting to see where he ends up, but my guess would be third base, and I think he has a real chance to stick there.
What He Doesn’t Bring
His performance hasn’t exactly been consistent at Arkansas. As a frosh, he displayed horrible contact ability but more power than was expected. Then he went to the Cape Cod League, and he was a contact hitter with no power whatsoever. This year he’s showing a lot of contact ability and a little less power than 2009. So what is he exactly? A contact hitter or a power hitter?
Looking at his swing, I see why some scouts are questioning whether he’s got enough power in his bat. While the raw strength is there, his swing isn’t producing much loft, and he’s not doing a great job of transferring his weight has he swings. He doesn’t keep his weight back enough, and what he does he tends to leak early. The end result is a hands-oriented approach that should produce line drives but not towering blasts. As for his contact ability, there’s a little bit of a question there, too. He does a good job of keeping his swing short, but his swing is a little busy, and that might cost him, but I’m not too worried.
And then there’s his position. Even in high school, it wasn’t clear where he’d wind up, and in my original notes, I wrote that it was 50-50 whether he wound up at third or right field. Now, I’m a little more convinced that he’s a third baseman, but he won’t be a good one, and the threat of a move might hang over him throughout his development. He’s just not considered agile or fast enough to have plus range as a pro.
Finally, don’t be fooled by Cox’s 11 steals this season. He’s a smart baserunner, but he has below average foot speed.
I was a fan of his while he was in high school, and I’m still a fan today. But he’s not a slam dunk prospect, and his skills and athletic ability probably make him sort of a tweener. He’s a good hitter, but he might not hit for enough power to be a corner infielder. He’s got good hands and an arm, but he’s too slow to be a great defender. It’s tough to really place him.
What Cox ultimately becomes might depend on which organization takes him. Some teams might just let him be, while others might tinker with the swing to induce more home run power. Personally, I’m gonna hedge my bets. I think he’ll continue to hit for average and somewhat reduced power, probably in the 20 home run range. That’s enough to put Cox towards the top of my list when considering the Mets’ pick.
One thing to remember: Cox might be a collegiate player, but as a draft-eligible sophomore, he has more leverage than the average college player. I can’t see him wanting to wait until next year, but there’s still the potential for a tough sign here.
There’s nothing really useful on YouTube, but here is some video of a batting practice session, courtesy of Baseball Beginnings.