Scouting Yankees Prospect #47: J. Brent Cox

Cox is the ideal double-play inducer

The Yankees drafted J. Brent Cox in the 2nd round of the 2005 MLB Draft out of the University of Texas. The right-hander missed the entire 2007 season after having Tommy John surgery and pitched pretty well upon his return this season, and now he is very close to helping out at the big league level.

Vital Statistics:
Name: J. Brent Cox
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: May 13, 1984
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 205
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

"Obviously statistics-wise and numbers-wise it was terrible for me in my eyes," Cox said, referring to his 7.48 ERA over his last 16 appearances in Triple-A. "It was not a good year if you look at it on paper, but in another sense I felt when I first made my rounds in High-A and Double-A, and then in my first 12-15 innings in Triple-A I felt great and my numbers were great.

"And then I just felt I kind of hit a wall of fatigue and my arm was just worn out, just really gassed out from not having a lot of time off before I jumped into the season, in between rehab and the season."

He wasn't even a year out of Tommy John surgery, however, when J. Brent Cox opened up with the Tampa Yankees in the second week of the season, posting a 3.00 ERA in six appearances before making five appearances in Double-A with the Trenton Thunder.

He then posted a 1.35 ERA in the Eastern League and kept his momentum going in Triple-A by going 2-1 with a tiny 0.63 ERA in his first twelve appearances with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

"He was going to hit the wall and I was there when it was happening," said Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. "He was pitching well.

"After making pitching stops at A-ball and Double-A ball, he was pitching in Triple-A and that was where it finally hit him. He started out real well but then the arm gets tired and he's not as crisp."

With his arm getting tired as the season wore on, especially after not truly having an offseason since he spent his rehabbing his injury, his arm slot dropped, his command faltered, and he wound up leaving too many pitches over the fat part of the plate when he wasn't missing it entirely.

"The biggest kicker for me was my walks were through the roof because I don't walk anybody," said Cox. "I might walk a guy here and there but I'm not scared of contact. I think that was the biggest sign for me that something was wrong, having so many walks.'

He uncharacteristically walked fourteen batters in his last sixteen appearances, but Cox realizes everybody knows that isn't his game and he believes he will return to the same pitcher that had entered the season with a career 1.98 ERA.

"You're never happy putting up the numbers that I put up but at the same time I think and hope the Yankees know my arm was not in the best shape, and that I just couldn't go out there and compete like I normally should," he continued. "I was just battling with nothing.

"Obviously I knew it was a big season for this coming offseason but injuries and setbacks are the greatest equalizers there is and I couldn't do anything about it. I was doing the best I could with what I had and hopefully they see my numbers from before and that I was healthy at the beginning of this year."

Seeing other high-ceiling relievers get their big league opportunities before him hasn't been easy and he also realizes there are others that have moved above him on the depth charts, but Cox remains confident in his abilities to help out the big league team in the very near future.

"Definitely," Cox said emphatically, "that was the frustrating thing because when I had the surgery I thought my big year was going to be this [past] year so now I've been waiting for two years and now I think this next year is going to be my big year if I can stay healthy. Hopefully everything will turn out the way it should."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2008

Scranton

5-4

0

36.0

30

17

16

4.75

2008

Trenton

0-0

1

6.2

3

2

6

1.35

2008

Tampa

0-0

1

6.0

8

2

2

3.00

2006

Trenton

6-2

3

77.0

54

24

60

1.75

2005

Tampa

1-2

0

27.2

20

5

27

2.60



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Cox is a prototypical sinkerball reliever. He gets great movement and sinking action with his two-seam fastball that generally sits in the 88-92 MPH range, topping out at 93 MPH at times. Built to induce contact, he uses it to get opposing batters to pound it into the dirt and allow his defense behind him to make the necessary plays.

Other Pitches. Cox isn't a strikeout pitcher in the traditional sense but he is able to get quite a few swings-and-misses with his plus slider. It's not the hard-biting slider most setup or closers types throw, but it does sit in the 80-85 MPH range and he can command it very well. Aiding his ability to induce contact is his changeup, which is his third best pitch. He doesn't throw it all that often but it does allow him to give opposing batters a different look. Now that he's back to being completely healthy it should remain a key area of work going forward.

Pitching. His rather high walk total towards the end of the 2008 season notwithstanding, Cox goes right after batters with his fastball-slider combination [occasionally mixing in the changeup] attempting to get them to roll over harmlessly and ground out to his defense behind him, which allows him to be quite proficient getting double-plays. He pitches with a fearless and carefree attitude on the mound, and there aren't many more confident pitchers around. Cox is also very efficient with his pitches and he has the ability to throw multiple innings in back-to-back games should the need arise.

Projection. Cox doesn't have the sexy arsenal nor the high strikeout totals normally associated with high-profile reliever types, but his blue collar, workman-like approach can be a valuable asset to a big league bullpen. He doesn't mess around on the mound. He goes right after batters, he works quickly and efficiently, he throws strikes, and his unique arm slot and solid three-pitch arsenal gives opposing batters a different look. His efficiency also allows him to be an innings eater in the bullpen and that in itself is where his greatest value lies. He might not have the stuff to be considered a strong setup man at the big league level, but he does safely project as a solid middle reliever perfectly suited for sixth and seventh innings, especially when situations call for an important double-play. He compares very favorably stuff-wise and role-wise to New York Mets middle reliever Joe Smith.

ETA. 2009. It will be an interesting offseason for Cox. He wasn't protected on the 40-man roster and with his reliability and consistency there is certainly a strong chance he might get plucked away by another team in the Rule 5 Draft this winter. Should he remain in the Yankees organization, however, he'll be on the short list of possible middle relievers called up next season after most likely beginning the year right where he left off, in Triple-A Scranton.

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