The Cardinal Nation’s second-ranked prospect heading into this season, third baseman Zack Cox, has been promoted from A-Advanced Palm Beach to Double-A Springfield effective Tuesday, May 24. In the corresponding transaction, infielder Niko Vasquez was returned to Palm Beach from Springfield.
For 2011, Cox’ first full-season as a professional, some thought he would be challenged by starting the season with Springfield, since 2010 third baseman Matt Carpenter moved up to Triple-A. Instead, the Cardinals let Cox get established at the lower level of competition for the first seven weeks before making the move.
The strategy seemed to work. After a slow start, especially in the power department, Cox really came alive in May. He recently completed a team-high 15-game hitting streak. He hit his first professional home run May 12 at Clearwater and followed with another the next day, recording a season-high three RBI in each contest. Cox’ line for the month is .394/.456/.606/1.061.
For the season, Cox leads Palm Beach with a .335 average and 55 hits in 164 at-bats over 42 games. The 22-year-old leaves the Florida State League with three home runs and 20 RBI, an .819 OPS and a .412 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Cox was drafted by the Cardinals with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft from the University of Arkansas, where he set single-season records with 102 hits and a .429 batting average.
He became the first Cardinals draftee to receive a Major League contract since J.D. Drew in 1999. It was for $3.2 million over four seasons and included a $2 million signing bonus.
Cox made his professional debut last season with four games in the Gulf Coast League, followed by an improving stint in the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase.
Cox becomes the ninth player to join the Springfield club from Palm Beach this season and the third position player. Other recent call-ups include catcher Audry Perez, pitchers Chase Reid and Maikel Cleto and infielder Alan Ahmady.
The moves come just three days after Springfield manager Ron “Pop” Warner expressed his frustration over a number of his players being unable to adjust to the Texas League and the resultant losing. The Cardinals are second-to-last in the eight-team circuit in batting average at .252 and third from the cellar in runs scored. The organization is obviously hoping Cox can provide a spark.
Vasquez, 22, a 6-foot, 170-pound California native, was selected in the third round of the 2008 draft from Durango (NV) High School and played in 59 games with Palm Beach in 2010. Appearing in 39 contests for Springfield this season, Vasquez posted a .225/.294/.428 line in 138 at-bats.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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