Our hesitation with Zack Cox

June 3, 2010

Editor's note: We've been vocal about our lack of confidence in Zack Cox for months now. To highlight why we question Cox as a wise selection inside the top 10 picks this year, Adam, Lincoln and Steve Carter recently detailed their thoughts on the Arkansas draft-eligible sophomore. The conversation below was recorded in our June 3, 2010 Draft Podcast.

Adam Foster: I think it's only fair to our audience that we go in a little more detail about Zack Cox, given that he is someone who -- he's reached the status in mock drafts at least -- (is viewed) as a potential top 10 overall pick. Have either of you guys gotten to see Cox in action much?

Steve Carter: I saw like one at-bat, I think it was against Ole Miss, when it was on ESPNU. I just tuned in and caught one at-bat. That was really it (this year). All I've seen is YouTube videos and stuff like that.

AF: How 'bout you Lincoln?

Lincoln Hamilton: I've seen him probably 7 or 8 times over the last couple years...not a ton but enough to get a general idea of his physical ability.

AF: Have you seen enough then where you could compare him a little bit -- what you saw last year to what you've seen this year?

SC: I did see enough last year at the College World Series. It's really completely different, in what he did from last year to this year. Last year he was all coiled up and he was a slugger. And you knew you were going to get a strikeout or a long fly. That was what he was doing last year. And this year he's completely switched into more of a Chris Coghlan-type swing -- real short and contact-oriented and a lot less shoulders involved. But there's still, for me, just too much upper body, too much shoulders, not enough top hand, too much bottom hand. I have a hard time seeing as a top 10 pick right now.

Zack CoxAF: Yeah, it seems like people kind of get into the rhythm of wanting to find consensus first rounders; consensus top half of the first round guys. Cox was someone who struck out at an alarming rate as a freshman. Now he is a draft-eligible sophomore and I think people are getting excited about the contact adjustment he's been able to make. But if you view Cox as a top 10 overall pick, you're assuming that he's going to make massive power strides. And maybe you're grounding that on the fact that he did hit for a good amount of power last year, but that power's gone this year.

I did a little research:

If Cox does become a top 10 overall pick in the 2010 draft class, he'll have had the lowest isolated power of any college hitter taken in that range so far this century. Granted we're only going back about 11 years but you have a list of 20+ hitters who have twice as much, if not more than that, power almost on average. There is Ryan Zimmerman who didn't hit for a lot of power when he was with Virginia, but still more than Cox, granted he was doing it a junior. But other than that, Cox isn't even in, shoot, Jason Castro territory in terms of power.

And then what you're also looking at with him is he's not a guy who's going to be able to play even below-average defense at second base. And perhaps average defense at third base...I think we've all been scratching our heads over the amount of hype he's been getting.

LH: Generally with a college guy, especially a college guy that you're thinking about taking in the top half of the first round or so, you want him to have a really elite track record of statistical success and Cox just doesn't have that. You look at his batting average this year and it's fantastic -- I think he's leading the SEC in batting -- but it's all singles pretty much. Like you said, his isolated power is absurdly low for a guy being talked about as an elite draft choice.

He has shown the ability to hit for power. He has shown the ability to make contact. But he's never shown the ability to do both of those at the same time. He's not overly patient.

For any team that thinks that thinks that Zack Cox is gonna to turn into a good big league hitter -- and he still may; he's got a lot of natural talent, he is fairly young for the draft class...I could see him having some upside -- but he's going to have to turn himself into a remarkably better professional hitter that he has been as a college guy. And that's really rare. That's a big risk to take early in the draft.

Zack Cox fieldingAF: And as you mentioned earlier Steve, it is a largely upper-body-driven swing. Cox is a guy who I got to see play multiple times earlier this season, when Arkansas was playing Cal at the beginning of the year. And Cox is someone, because of that upper-body-driven swing, who is going to be vulnerable to advanced breaking balls. And I'm not sure how many of those hitters are seeing on a regular basis in college.

I think his contact rates are really going to suffer when he reaches pro ball and I don't expect a big power jump from him. Honestly, I'll be surprised if Zack Cox reaches the big leagues. And I wouldn't want someone like that as a top 10 overall pick.

SC: The other thing I've not seen out of him is a lot of life out of his barrel. I'm not seeing his bat really translating that well to wood in pro ball against advanced pitching. He did really well on the Cape last year -- and that's where part of the hype is coming from -- but I'm not sure if he's going to get to a lot of the good breaking balls, like you said. And I don't know if he's got enough barrel action to drive the ball with authority consistently with a wood bat.

LH: And if this guy was Jose Iglesias, a premium defender at a key spot, it would be one thing. But he's likely a third baseman in the pros. That's a position where you've gotta have a big bat to break in and it's a jump to think that Cox is going to develop himself to that level.



  • Upper-body-driven swing that may not translate well for power or contact in pro ball
  • Limited defensive value as a likely third baseman who isn't great with the glove
  • Will have to blossom into a remarkably better hitter in pro ball than college to have top 10 pick value
  • Players with as many adjustments to make as he does rarely turn into solid big leaguers 


Check out our 2010 Draft Coverage archive.