DFA's Draft Druthers: Zack Cox

I hope to do several of these before the June draft talking about some draft thoughts and preferences along with links to help those who want to get more info on the draft but don't know where to turn.

First I want to thank Blez for picking up Andy Seiler's draft blog which is a great accessible and key word FREE resource folks to get a good sense of the lay of the land.  Andy is remarkably open and responsive to fan questions. Seiler lives in Georgia and gets to scout a lot of the SEC which is premium conference with a lot of talent.  One of the other excellent resources that is free is PNR scouting.  Nick James there has excellent scouting reports and is a great resource on twitter.  Most of you should know which is run by John Sickles and does some excellent work related to the draft even with a focus on the minor leagues rather than amateur talent. is another great site that does its own scouting reports. has a draft section with some video as well.

Some of the mock drafts thus far have the A's selecting Arkansas 3bman Zack Cox with their first round pick at #10 overall.  Though the lack of positional college talent this year has his stock up to the point that he might not even be available when the A's get on the clock,  I wanted to break down the scouting debate of this potential pick as there is a fairly significant disagreement of Cox's value.

A little information on Cox.  Cox is a draft eligible sophomore, meaning that while he has only played two years of college ball hes eligible for the draft because he was born May 9,1989 making him 21 at the time of the draft.  Cox started as a freshmen but had a back injury at the beginning of the season that slowed him out of the gate.  He finished strong to a line of .266/.345/.558 showing nice power but a low batting average and poor command of the zone with 65/20 K/BB ratio.  He followed that up with a All Star season in the summer wood bat Cape Cod League which features the highest level of collegiate summer competition in the country.

Zack Cox's value is debated on both sides of the ball.  The first question is the bat.  Cox didn't hit for a good average and while he showed some patience and power in his freshman year he certainly did strike out more than one would like for the number ten pick (28.9% of his PAs).  Project Prospect had this to say when breaking down his swing:

Carter pointed out how Cox's swing was largely driven by his shoulders and front side. He noted that such a swing would leave a hitter in a poor position to adjust to breaking balls. Cox took more than a few ugly swings -- like the one to the right -- against breaking balls last weekend...

He appears to be making a conscious effort to adjust his swing and approach in hopes of making more contact than last season. To date this has resulted in fewer strikeouts and more contact but a decline in power.

Cox is much more balanced than he was in high school and as a freshman. He didn't take any swings where his back leg flew out behind him as shifted his weight, something he's done in the past. I was impressed with the opposite-field power I saw from him during batting practice. And he has a pretty good eye to go with some patience. He just has more adjustments to make than I'd want from a guy who I was thinking of spending a million dollars on.

but that was during the very beginning of the college campaign.  Since then Cox has hit the everything that pitchers have served up to the tune of .443/.528/.622/1.149, which is good enough for the 10th highest BA in the country in the NCAA's toughest division (SEC).  With the decline in strikeouts, as Project Prospect notes, Cox's power hasn't been as prolific with only 7 HRs and a decline in ISO slugging. 

This decline in power has triggered the question, "will Cox hit for enough power to play 3b?" According to Baseball Beginnings, who looked at his BP, the answer is no.

There are no signs in this video that Cox is tailored for lifting the ball. He’s armsy and likes extension, but he doesn’t drive the ball. He makes contact, but not with what I would term hard contact. 

If a guy likes to get extension but is armsy and does not lift the ball, then that is potentially a guy with a hole in his swing at the big league level. In that case, Cox will have to show adjustability and an understanding of how to work counts to his advantage. I think he’ll hit the good fastball, which is a good start, but he’ll need to prove he can drive the quality breaking balls. Cox does keep the bat head in the zone for a long time, which is a good sign.

Cox has modest height and he’s stocky and strong with a low center of gravity. But he’s just about maxed about physically, which tells me that he has limited power and his swing is not tailored for his strengths.  He also lacks a standout secondary tool that would make him a premium pick. In conclusion, I don’t think this guy is a terrible hitter, but he’s not a cornerstone type. He will most certainly have organizational value and will have to hit his way to the top. He will help himself if he can play multiple positions.

That is disputed by his coach and several other commentators.  I normally discount views by coaches, but just for some background, this is what his skipper told Baseball America:

"If people want to see his power, all they have to do is watch him take batting practice," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "People are pitching him away. I can't tell you how many hits he's got to the opposite field. He's just got a great approach at the plate right now."

Van Horn's batting practice theory is advanced by others like Andy Selier thinks that he can turn that bp power on in games

His swing isn’t tailored for loft as it stands right now, but it was been in the past. This is a kid who is concentrating on being productive and a professional hitter right now, not one that’s trying to impress scouts with his power. If you get a hold of tape from batting practice, you’ll see he has the ability to hit for power. I think he’s more of a 25 home run hitter than a 35 home run hitter, but the power is definitely there.

And more Selier commentary:

I think people constantly undersell Cox, who is the best collegiate hitter behind Harper. Though there are concerns about his power projection, he could be a .300 hitter with 20-25 home runs a year, and that’s about the level that people expected from a Brett Wallace or Ike Davis in a loaded class in 2008.

Sickles also praises Cox for his pure stroke and says that he should be able to hit for power and average at the next level.

As for defense there has been some talk of moving Cox to 2b where traditionalist wouldn't have as many problems with less power out of the bat.  While Cox has an excellent arm that he puts on display as a pitcher, he doesn't have great range at 3b and thoughts are that he could improve his range at 2b where a quick first step and instincts are less vital.  Cox's improvement at the hot corner this year has quelled many of those concerns and thoughts of letting him utilize his plus arm at 3b seem to be more prevalent right now.

As for the A's Cox is a draft eligible sophomore so he has some leverage with the ability to play collegiate ball for two more years, but he shouldn't break the bank with a bonus.  Hes not a cant miss ball player but there aren't a lot of sure things at the #10 spot this year like there are in many other years of the draft and the A's positional need at 3b is undeniable.  Personally, Im not really sold on him, but I do like the fact that he has been able to adjust his approach dramatically which portends well for adjustments that he might need to make in the minor leagues.  That being said, if trading down was a possibility I would.  But since its not, I would not be adversed to a Pirates style draft with a cheap pick at 10 and then investing the money in later round signability guys. Zack Cox would be a pick I would be happy with but not thrilled by.

If Cox falls to the A's, do you want to select him?

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