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Third baseman Cox sees Draft stock soar

Third baseman Cox sees Draft stock soar

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HOOVER, Ala. -- Zack Cox does not like to sit. Spend some time with the University of Arkansas sophomore third baseman and it's easy to see that root-canal surgery would be preferable to not playing when his team is on the field.

Draft Central

But that's exactly what Cox had to do when Arkansas arrived for the Southeastern Conference Tournament. He had missed three of four games against Vanderbilt last week with a ribcage injury and since Arkansas is all but guaranteed to host a regional next week, it was decided that the first-team All-SEC hitter should rest up to make sure he's 100 percent and ready to go for what they hope will be a long postseason run.

"It's tough, but I have to focus on the goal ahead and realize what's best for the team. It's also what's best for me," Cox said. "It was tough for me to sit at Vandy. That's why I jumped in the lineup and re-hurt it. I love this game. I always have and I always will. It doesn't matter if it's the SEC tournament or a regular-season game, I always want to be out there playing. "

And he's played it extremely well over the past two years, developing into the most advanced college bat in this year's Draft class, at least according to many scouts. The numbers certainly bear it out: Cox has hit .432 this season over 60 games.

Even though the Draft-eligible sophomore has missed the past several games, it shouldn't affect his draft status at all. Playing in the SEC, he's been seen countless times. Besides, Cox was a pretty good prospect coming out of high school, selected in the 20th round by the Dodgers. He opted to attend Arkansas, knowing he could do it all over again in two years. In some cases, missing those last looks from scouts could hurt, but his track record means that while scouts were disappointed he wasn't playing in the SEC Tournament, it's not going to change their opinions of his skills.

"If it does, then that team probably shouldn't take me anyway," Cox said. "If they haven't seen me enough, they're probably not interested anyway."

Even teams that are interested in him aren't exactly sure how he profiles. No one doubts that he'll hit at the next level, but there is some debate over what kind of power he'll show as a professional. He's got more than enough bat speed, so he could end up having moderate power, though some think he'll be more of a batting-title, Wade Boggs type.

"That's an awfully big thing to say," Cox said. "I just want to be the best with the abilities that God gave me. With concerns about my power, I never think about my power. I just go up to the box to hit the ball hard somewhere. Where it goes is where it goes."

Cox has played third and second this year and some scouts actually liked what they saw at the latter position better. He's fine with either as long as it means he's in the lineup every day. In the end, it's his bat that has him being mentioned prominently in the top 10 of the first round of the June 7 Draft.

And this isn't a bat that's going to suffer when he puts down the metal and picks up wood. Some college hitters have difficulty making that switch, but Cox's approach and experience should mean he'll just keep on raking regardless of what kind of bat he uses.

"Switching to wood full-time is probably going to be easier for me," Cox said. "That's what I grew up using. That's what my dad played with, so that's what he handed me ever since I was a little guy. During high school, I'd play 46 games using an aluminum bat, then play 80 over the summer and used wood. So the transition should be easier for me."

That transition will have to wait a little while, at least if things go according to Cox's plan. One of the few times he'll be OK with sitting and watching will be on June 7, when he'll gather with those he's close to and see how the Draft unfolds. Then he'll do what he likes to do best, suiting up and heading back to a field for Arkansas for a couple of more weeks.

"I'll be at my apartment with my family," Cox said, "getting ready for a Super Regional and a trip to Omaha."

MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live from MLB Network's Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, June 7, beginning with the Draft preview show at 5 p.m. CT.

MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.

Coverage for Rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at 11 a.m. CT, and Rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, also starting at 11 a.m. CT. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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