Last season, when Zach Cox found himself at the age of 24, playing in Double-A Jacksonville, his hopes of a bright major league future from years ago had seemed to fade. Fast forward about a year, and Cox is batting second for the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting for a slash line .292/.347/.496, along with whacking five balls out of the park. Cox, a former first-round pick, was traded to Philly from Miami along with Nate Eovaldi, and Justin Ruggiano, bringing back Ben Revere among others. This trade was heavily criticized by many experts and GMs, but, at least this far into the season, it appears Philly may have got the better of the trade. Although Revere has hit .281, he has stole three bases and neither of the two minor leaguers also shipped by the Phils looks to have much of a bright future. In addition, Eovaldi has won three games for the Phillies this year and Ruggiano has knocked five balls out of the park and managed a .470 slugging percentage. Of course it is still early, but this trade has played a big role in Philly’s hot start to the season.
The real story, however, is Cox, the Arkansas grad who had all but given up on his baseball career before the trade. “Philly took a chance on me,” he said, “and I’m so thankful they did. I never expected to make the major league roster out of spring training, and I even told my friends in Lehigh Valley that I would be coming there. But the day Noah [Oppenheimer] called me and said I’d be coming with them to Philly, I couldn’t believe it, I’d never been so excited.” Cox was slated to be a backup to Ryan Flaherty at third base, but Flaherty went down for a month during the first week of the season, opening the door for the young Cox to step into a starter’s role and make his mark. “I had an opportunity, and I just tried to take it,” says Cox, who got off to a slow, his batting average hovering around the Mendoza for a week or two. But recently Cox has gotten hot, and he has probably taken the job from Flaherty, at least for the time being. “Zack has done great,” says manager Joe Torre, “and nobody deserves it more than him. He’s very quiet but very nice, and he works harder than most.”
“I’ve had some success,” said Cox, “but now I have to remember h0w quickly you can go from top dog to last place. It happened to me. I was a first round pick, and I fell to somebody who nobody wanted. But I’m going to do all I can to not let that happen again, I’ll work hard and not just sit back on a couple of good weeks of baseball.”