The KC Royals could audition a prospect before this season concludes.
Kansas City made Austin Cox, who’d just completed his third season pitching for Mercer University, their fifth round selection, and eighth team pick, in the 2018 amateur draft. But while five of the organization’s players picked before him (Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic and Kyle Isbel) and two chosen after him (Jon Heasley and Nate Eaton) have made it to the majors, Cox hasn’t.
That he’s played only in the minors isn’t from lack of trying. Or some success.
Cox signed and reported after the draft to the Royals’ Burlington rookie club and went a respectable 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 33.1 innings. He split 2019 between Low-A and High-A, posting an excellent 2.76 ERA and 2.6 BB9 to go with an 8-6 record.
Fortunately for Cox, his 2020 campaign wasn’t entirely lost to the pandemic—the Royals included him in the 60-man Player Pool, so he spent the summer working at their Alternate Training Site.
The club invited Cox to spring training last year, where he struck out six in 4.1 Cactus League innings before pitching in Double-A and Triple-A and turning in a 4-1, 4.10 regular season record.
This season, though, has been shaky. Cox recovered in June from a concerning April (0-2, 4.56) and bad July (0-1, 5.40) by going 2-1, 2.45 in five starts; he’s 2-1 this month, but with a 6.23 ERA, and 4-5, 4.31 for the season.
So, why should Kansas City give him a second-half shot? For one thing, he’s their 16th best prospect per MLB Pipeline; for another, the club needs to find out what he can do against major league hitters, especially after not protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft last winter. The lockout forced cancellation of the Rule 5, but he’s certainly a candidate for it this winter.
The Royals ought to take at least a short look at him.
Kansas City has four pitchers they have reasons to audition before this season ends.