3 minor-league options to replace Bubic in KC Royals rotation
By Jacob Milham
Pitcher Austin Cox was among Omaha's best pitchers in 2022, and the 26-year-old might be in line for his MLB debut this year.
Cox was a non-roster invitee to spring training in both 2022 and 2023, performing sparingly with the major league team. He is a member of the pitcher-heavy 2018 draft class, where the Royals selected him in the fifth round. Cox has not been a highly touted prospect, ranking #50 in FanGraph's rankings of Kansas City prospects.
In 2023, Cox has been working on improving his fastball, slider, and curveball in the minor leagues, hoping to earn a spot on the roster later in the season. He has shown promising results so far, with a 3.14 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14.1 innings pitched. His current 10.67 K/9 is his highest since rookie ball in 2018. His command issues are plauging him still against Triple-A batters, evident by his more than five walks per nine innings. The stuff is certainly there, but Cox's control of it is far from ideal.
Cox fits the "soft-tossing lefty" profile perfectly, but there are plenty of players in that profile with successful streaks in the majors. It's possible that Cox could surprise everyone and become a reliable starter or bullpen arm for the Royals. However, it's also possible that he may struggle to adjust to the major league level and never quite live up to his potential. The Royals will never know either way until they see Cox in Kansas City.