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Zach Cone learns ups and downs of minors

Zach Cone

Zach Cone

Sometimes the minor leagues almost seem easy. Then reality quickly sets in.

Zach Cone hit .360 (14-for-36) in his first eight games with Spokane of the Northwest League after signing with the Texas Rangers. In the next seven games, he was 4-for-28, a .143 average.

Lesson quickly learned. But the former Parkview and Georgia outfielder was still hitting .281 entering the weekend as he made his pro debut in the short-season Class A league and had 13 RBIs to go with six doubles, a triple and a home run. He also had stolen five bases without being caught.

Cone was a third-round draft choice by the Angels coming out of high school and was able to improve his draft position in college despite a junior season marred by a collision that left Georgia teammate Johnathan Taylor unable to walk.

This time Cone was taken by the Rangers in the supplemental first round with the 37th overall pick. Texas, showing its heart, also drafted Taylor in the late rounds and quickly came to terms with Cone, giving him a signing package of $873,000.

A total of 13 players from Gwinnett high schools were drafted this year, with left-handed pitcher Grayson Garvin of Wesleyan and Vanderbilt also taken in the supplemental first round by Tampa Bay with the 59th overall pick.

But only four of the players from Gwinnett had started their minor league careers by the weekend, with Troy Snitker, Justice French and Richard Pirkle joining Cone.

With his father, Brian, a long time minor league manager and the present Atlanta third base coach, Snitker already knew about the ups and down of pro ball. But he quickly experienced them himself.

A 19th-round draft pick by the Braves, the former Brookwood and North Georgia catcher hit a homer in his first game in the rookie Gulf Coast League and was soon 6-for-12 with two doubles, two homes and six RBIs. Then he went into a 1-for-22 swoon, dropping his average to .206 going into the weekend.

A Gwinnett signee not to experience any real adversity yet was French, a 25th-round selection by Cincinnati. The former Collins Hill and Mercer pitcher was 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA and had 22 strikeouts to no walks over 13 innings in the rookie Arizona League. In his third game, the right-hander struck out 12 in six innings.

Pirkle, drafted in the 35th round by Colorado, was sent to Tri-City and is playing in the same short-season Class A league in Washington State as Cone. Pirkle, a catcher from Norcross and Georgia College, homered in his third game and was 2-for-8 going into the weekend.