PRP alum Zack Cox signs with St. Louis Cardinals

Major League Baseball

Zack Cox; University of Arkansas photo

Pleasure Ridge Park High School alum and former University of Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox signed a major league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s first-round draft pick just before the MLB deadline to sign draft picks last night. Cox signed for a $3.2 million bonus and will receive a spot on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster, Kendall Rogers of Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com reports. The Louisville native was ranked by many as the top college bat in the draft and was projected to be selected in the first 10 picks but slid to No. 25 due to high contract demands.

Cox is the first Kentucky native selected in the first round since the Minnesota Twins took Lexington native Ben Revere with the 28th pick in 2007. Eastern Kentucky University left-handed pitcher Christian Friedrich, an Illinois native, was selected with the 25th pick in 2008. Cox will report to the Cardinals’ rookie-level Gulf Coast League team to begin his professional career. Cox led all Kentucky collegians in 2010 with a .429 batting average.

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Cox slips in first round, selected by Cardinals

College Baseball

Zack Cox; University of Arkansas photo

Rumors of high contract demands began to circulate about Pleasure Ridge Park alum and University of Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox just prior to Monday’s first round of the draft, and those rumors may have contributed to his slide down the draft board. Widely projected as a top 10 pick and the best college bat in the draft, Cox lasted until pick No. 25 when the St. Louis Cardinals selected him. Cox is a draft-eligible sophomore so he could easily return to Arkansas if he doesn’t receive a contract to his liking.

“As far as signability goes, I’m really just focused on winning the national championship, and we can discuss all that later,” Cox told Matthew Leach of MLB.com. “I feel honored to be drafted by the Cardinals. It’s awesome. But right now I just want to focus on the national championship and we can discuss signability later.” Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals’ vice president of scouting and player development added, “Our sense is that Zack wants to sign. He wants to play baseball, and I think he sees his career moving fairly quickly in getting here, which is what we see for him as well. And I think he wants to sign and we want to sign him.”

Former University of Kentucky left-handed pitcher James Paxton was not selected on the draft’s first night one year after being taken as the Blue Jays’ first-supplemental pick. Paxton notoriously returned to UK only to be suspended pending a NCAA investigation for allegedly violating the NCAA no-agent rule before suing the university and leaving school to prepare for the draft in the independent American Association. Paxton is listed as one of the best 15 players still on the board by Baseball America.

Draft Preview: Ky. Alumni

Major League Baseball

Zack Cox; University of Arkansas photo

The Major League Baseball amateur player’s draft kicks off tonight with the first round in primetime so we’ll spend the day preview Kentucky players that might hear their names called at some point in the 50-round draft. First we’ll look at alumni of Kentucky high schools playing elsewhere in college baseball and players that have spent some time at a Kentucky college who figure to be drafted:

First Round Talent

  • The crown jewel of the Kentucky draft class is without a doubt Pleasure Ridge Park alumni Zack Cox, currently a third baseman for the University of Arkansas. Cox is ranked by many as the best college bat in the entire draft and should last no longer than the first 10 picks. Several mock drafts have him going to the Mets at No. 7 overall. Since Cox is a draft-eligible sophomore he is considered a tougher sign than your average top-ten pick and could be pushed back to college if a team isn’t willing to meet his reportedly high contract demands.
  • Since former University of Kentucky senior left-handed pitcher James Paxton was drafted in the supplemental first round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010, Paxton has been busy. First he shocked the baseball world by returning to UK for his senior season, then he became the subject of an NCAA investigation after comments from a Blue Jays official in a Canadian newspaper implicated him of violating the NCAA’s no-agent rule, sued UK for holding him out of competition and finally left school to prepare for this year’s draft in the independent American Association. After all that, Paxton appears likely to end up where he started as a supplemental-round pick. He could slide to the second round after missing so much time and would need to grant his home-country Blue Jays permission to draft him for a second consecutive year.

Other prospects of note:

  • Danville native and former Eastern Kentucky University pitcher Patrick Cooper was selected in the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 34th round in 2009, but opted to follow through with his commitment to Bradley University, where he struggled at times as a junior. Cooper was a Cape Cod League All-Star last summer and could improve his draft status to the first 10 rounds after improving down the stretch for Bradley. In his last three starts Cooper, a right-handed pitcher who touched 93 mph with his fastball in the Cape, surrendered just four earned runs in his last three starts.
  • Paducah native and Michigan St. junior shortstop Jonathan Roof will look to follow his two brothers, Eric and Shawn, into professional baseball. Roof was an All-Big Ten shortstop for Michigan St. in 2010 and profiles as an excellent defender. Baseball America projects Roof to go somewhere around the 10th round.

Eligible Juniors

  • RHP/INF Damon McCormick — St. X — Valparaiso
  • C Wes Wilson — Bryan Station — Indiana

Eligible Seniors

  • LHP David Vicini — Lexington Catholic — Austin Peay
  • LHP Jack Snodgrass — Bowling Green HS — Austin Peay
  • RHP Tyler Gatrell — Boyd County — Marshall
  • RHP Chad Edwards — Reidland — Middle Tennessee

UK secures commitment from former LCA slugger; BA profiles Kentucky teams; Hustlers announce roster

College Baseball, Minor League Baseball

UK Athletics Wallpaper

Links for a Wednesday afternoon:

  • Rob Gidel, sometime BluGrass Baseball contributor and Cat’s Pause analyst, reports the University of Kentucky has received a commitment from former LCA star Tyler Oliver. Oliver leads all junior college players with 25 home runs.
  • Those wanting an early glimpse of the slugger can watch him with the Lexington Hustlers college summer league team this summer, Adam Revelette of Examiner.com reports. Revelette is also the Hustlers’ general manager.
  • For the complete Hustlers’ roster check out a previous post from Revelette.
  • Aaron Fitt of Baseball America breaks down the small conference races for their automatic NCAA bid and declare Murray State University the Ohio Valley Conference favorite.
  • Matt Eddy of BA profiles the surprising pitching depth (subscription required) of the struggling Bowling Green Hot Rods.
  • Kendall Rogers of Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports ranks PRP alum Zack Cox as the No. 6 college prospect for the 2010 draft.

PRP alum named first-team All-American; UK infielder selected as third-team AA

College Baseball

Zack Cox; University of Arkansas photo

Pleasure Ridge Park alum and University of Arkansas infielder Zack Cox was named a first-team NCAA All-American by Baseball America Friday. The team was voted on by MLB scouting directors. Cox graduated from PRP in 2008 before starring for the Razorbacks as a freshman in 2009.  BA selected Cox as the designated hitter on the first team after he batted .271 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI last year.

“We really like his bat,” a National League scouting director told Jim Callis of BA. “We liked it in high school, too. He should hit for average and power. He backspins the ball pretty well. And he should be OK at third base, too, once he gets some more time there.” (Read more, subscription required)

University of Kentucky second baseman Chris Bisson was named to the third-team squad after batting .360 with two home runs and 52 RBI in 2009. (BA All Americans)