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Plate Discipline, Meet Zack Cox

April 14, 2010

As a freshman last year, Arkansas 3B Zack Cox put together a solid season, posting 13 HR and 15 2B in under 200 at-bats. Not bad for the transition from high school ball to the hyper-competitive SEC.

His achilles heel was the strikeout. He struck out in nearly every third at-bat, putting him in Russell Branyan territory. No matter how good the pitching is in the SEC, there's little reason to think a player's strikeout rate will improve as he climbs the ladder in pro ball.

College players tend not to improve their strikeout rates much year to year, either. Coming into the 2010 season as a draft-eligible sophomore, it was clear that his strikeout total would have a lot to do with his draft position come June.

Sure enough, he's a whole different hitter this year. In 133 at-bats so far, he's K'd only 15 times, about one-third as often as he did last year. His improved batting eye is showing up elsewhere in the stats, as well. He's walking in about 15 percent of plate appearances, compared to 9 percent last year.

And that's not all. Through this weekend's games, he's batting an otherworldly 441/538/638, good for the third-best OPS in the SEC. Adjusted for park and schedule, he's number one.

As the Razorbacks face a fresh SEC opponent every weekend for the duration of the season, Cox will continue to be tested. But so far, he's dispelling doubts and climbing up draft boards.