Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting: Zack Cox, more

by Chris Hadorn on May 26, 2011 @ 14:52:38 PDT

 


Your fantasy baseball rankings look a little stale. KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Player Prospecting series highlights the exploits of minor league baseball players, including top MLB prospects. Find out who'll make an impact, whether it's in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball game next week or in your fantasy baseball keeper league two years from now.

No pitcher in the minors has turned the corner quite like Washington Nationals pitching prospect Brad Peacock this season. Coming into this season, Peacock held a career mark of 19-35 and had never recorded a ERA in the minors below 4.00, but this year he is putting up eye-popping numbers at Double-A Harrisburg that are reminiscent of Stephen Strasburg last year.

St. Louis Cardinals 3B Zack Cox
Doubts about Cox?

In 55 innings at Harrisburg, Peacock has gone 7-1, with a 2.13 ERA and a league-leading 75 strikeouts. He has issued only 10 walks, while averaging 12.27 strikeouts per nine frames.

Last night, the 23-year-old right-hander picked up the victory in Harrisburg's 7-6 victory over Akron. In 6 2/3 innings, Peacock yielded two runs on three hits and a walk, while fanning nine.

It was the eighth time in nine games this season that Peacock surrendered two runs or less.

Last night's nine-strikeout outing followed two starts in which Peacock struck out 14 and 10 batters.

The former Palm Beach (Fla.) Community College product has surfaced this year as one of the favorites for minor league pitcher of the year.

Over the last year, Peacock has matured physically. His fastball now routinely hits the mid-90s, and he complements it with a nasty knuckle-curveball that serves as his out pitch. The right-hander also throws a changeup.

Because he stands at only 6-foot-1 and is a former 41st-round draft pick, Peacock is not going to get the accolades that have been bestowed upon Nats young guns Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, but his performance this season is indicative of a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

Given that Peacock is 23, there really isn't much incentive for the Nats to keep him down in the minors as a business move. Don't be surprised if the Nats give him a late-season look later this summer.

Peacock is on pace to compete for a big league rotation spot by next spring. He projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but that is a conservative label considering the way he's pitching now.

***

In the wake of an injury crisis that has hit the San Francisco Giants, infield prospect Brandon Crawford is getting the call today from the minors, where he will replace Mike Fontenot on the 25-man roster.

It's somewhat of an odd promotion considering that Crawford had played the entire season at low Single-A San Jose as he was recovering from a broken finger.

The 24-year-old was hitting .322 with three home runs, 15 RBIs and a 1.005 OPS in 59 at-bats at San Jose, but the numbers aren't too impressive considering that Crawford has yet to master the Double-A level as a hitter.

Because of his flashy defense at shortstop, Crawford is a household name among prospects, but he hasn't figured out the hitting side of it as he holds a .270 average and .336 on-base percentage during his career in the minors.

The former UCLA star has been plagued by subpar strike zone command, but his walk and strikeout rates have gradually improved over the last three seasons, so there is some hope. He also brings some pop to the table, having swatted 10 home runs in 2009.

Crawford is being brought up to provide some defensive depth up the middle. Even if he were to land some extensive playing time, he would be space filler, not really an effective fantasy contributor in deep NL-only leagues.

***

Third base prospect Zack Cox, the St. Louis Cardinals' first-round pick from 2010, made his Double-A debut last night for Springfield. In Springfield's 12-8 win over Corpus Christi, Cox went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, an RBI and a walk.

Before the promotion, the University of Arkansas alumnus hit .335 with three home runs, 20 RBIs, 22 runs scored and an .819 OPS in 164 at-bats with high Single-A Palm Beach. Considering the pitcher-friendly nature of the Florida State League, the numbers are adequate, but Cox didn't show an advanced feel for the strike zone (11 walks, 29 strikeouts). Cox has also been knocked for having average pop for a third baseman, and the .439 slugging percentage he posted at Palm Beach won't put those criticisms to rest just yet.

Scouts love Cox's pretty swing, but the 22-year-old is still a ways from refining his overall offensive game and threatening David Freese at the hot corner in St. Louis.

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About Chris Hadorn

Chris Hadorn has covered minor league and amateur prospects for more than a decade. He writes for San Diego's North County Times and has been a KFFL fantasy baseball contributor since 2006.


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