Draft Day: Cardinals Nab Top College Hitter

Zack Cox

Once again, the St. Louis Cardinals choose the best player on the board and nabbed Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox. In the supplemental first round, the team added right-handed pitchers Seth Blair and Tyrell Jenkins to their system.

Day one of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft began a lot like the previous years. Just like in 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals watched a player thought to be a top 10 pick fall into their laps and were more than happy to nab him. University of Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox was considered to be one of the top college position players in the draft but signability issues caused him to slide right to the Redbirds.

Through June 7, Cox is hitting .424/.506/.603 with nine home runs and 48 RBIs for the Razorbacks. During the season, Cox has as many walks as strikeouts, 34. Baseball America rated him as the top pure college hitter and as the sixth overall ranked prospect entering the draft. Josh Anderson of Scout.com and ESPN's Keith Law also rated him as the sixth prospect this year.

The native of Louisville, KY, struggled in his first season in Fayetteville on the Razorbacks' College World Series team. But when he went to the Cape Cod League during the summer, he had adjusted his approach at the plate and hit .344 while being named BA's top position player of the summer along with the MVP of the league's All-Star game.

Scouts are impressed with his ability to make adjustments as witnessed in his performance in 2010 compared to 2009 in which he hit .267 (though he did hit 13 home runs). They also like his smooth lefty stroke and strong hands and wrists.

At 6'1 and 215 pounds, there is debate on how much power he will show at the big league level. He shows lots of polish with the ability to hit the ball to all fields along with the ability to turn on the inside pitch and drive it over the outfield wall.

His defense at third is a work in progress and there are reports that he may transition to second base. He has strong arm but needs to work on his first step reaction and his ability to move laterally.

Attended high school at Pleasure Ridge Park where he hit .449 with 33 home runs during his prep career. On the mound, he was 38-3 with a 1.03 ERA and 495 strikeouts over 300 innings. During his senior season, he was named Mr. Baseball in Kentucky and MVP of the state tournament. Cox finished his high school career with three number one state rankings.

Cox fell to the Cardinals due to concerns of his bonus demands. As a draft eligible sophomore, he does possess the leverage of returning to school and being eligible to be drafted two more times. Plus, there were reports that he wanted a signing bonus similar to the six million dollar bonus the Pirates gave Pedro Alvarez.

Originally drafted in the 20th round of the 2008 MLB draft by the Dodgers, reports are that Cox rejected an $800,000 bonus to attend Arkansas.

With its second pick of the night, the St. Louis Cardinals grabbed Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, Seth Blair. The right-hander served as the ace of the staff on an Arizona State team that went into this post season as college baseball's number one national seed.

This season, Blair is 12-0 with a 3.06 ERA for the Sun Devils. In 97 innings, he has struck out 98 batters while allowing only 22 walks. Opponents hit .261 against him while serving as his team's Friday night starter, replacing the Cincinnati Reds' rookie phenom Mike Leake.

At 6'2, 190 pounds, Blair throws a fastball,that many outlets have described as electric, with good sink down in the zone. Early in the spring, his fastball sat 93-95 and even touched 97 at times. His curveball projects to be a plus pitch in the future to go along with a solid average changeup.

The Midwest native will have to work on his command that has caused him to run up high pitch counts this season.

Like many Cardinal draft picks, Blair has experience in the Cape Cod League. He spent two summers in the league, posting a 4-1 record to go along with his 1.55 ERA in seven starts during the summer of 2008.

Baseball America rated Blair as the number 34th rated prospect in the year's draft.

With the 50th and last pick of the night, the Cardinals nabbed prep pitcher Tyrell Jenkins. The right-hander is considered one of the top athletes in the draft and is Baylor University's top quarterback recruit. Jenkins also played on the varsity basketball team.

At 6'4, he has a long, lean projectable body that scouts can dream on. He worked at 92-93 most of the spring but has the ability to dial it up to 95. Due to his frame, he should be able to add velocity as he begins to fill out.

He has feel for his slider but like his changeup, it needs refinement. Scouts believe he will develop more consistency once he begins to focus on one sport.

On the mound, the product of Henderson High School in Texas is loose with fantastic arm speed. He hides the ball well and has a quick burst toward the plate.

Jenkins is quite raw but has a lot of projection that helped him slide into the supplemental round. His build reminds me of a young Dwight Gooden and the Cardinals must be confident they can buy him out of his Baylor commitment.

ESPN's Keith Law ranked Jenkins as the number 23 overall prospect in this year's draft. Scout.com's Anderson rated Jenkins as the number 32 player while Baseball America rated him as the number 43 prospect.





Dustin can be contacted at dustin@whiteyball.com.
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