The Orioles 1st round pick (#5 overall) in the 2021 draft comes in as the #8 overall prospect after being a line drive machine.
Age (as of Jun 30th) : 22
2021 Level: A+/AA/AAA
Tools (current/future value)
Game Power: 45/50
Raw Power: 50/55
Most Likely Future Role: Starting corner outfielder
Ceiling: Starting center fielder
What we know: Drafted by the Orioles with the 5th overall pick in the 2021 draft, he signed for an underslot ($4.9 million vs $6,180,700) bonus. It’s hard to think 2022 was anything but a success after starting the year in High-A and ending it in AAA. Saying that, it was a bit of a roller-coaster for him as he started off the year ice cold with Aberdeen striking out an alarming rate. He was however getting deep into counts and was drawing walks, but he was very passive at the plate. Through his first 29 games (132 PAs) at Aberdeen he slashed just .219/.371/.352/.724 with two home runs and 44 K’s, but he did walk 24 times to keep his OBP up. He then settle in and put up .289/.399/.463/.861 line in his next 143 PAs (33 games) before getting a promotion to Bowie (AA). Overall he put up a solid 23.8% LD rate and a surprisingly low 8.8% swinging strike rate but was hitting too many ground balls (51% GB rate).
Promoted to Bowie on June 28th, Cowser found Double-A pitching to his liking and for the first time in his professional career, his power potential start to show up. He crushed Eastern League pitching for .341/.469/.568/1.037 line, and amazing 35.5% LD rate, .452 wOBA, 184 wRC+, 10 HR and 10 doubles in 224 PAs. However, he did that with an unsustainable .446 BABIP and a high 25.4 % K rate though he paired that with a vert good 16.1 % walk rate and an amazing 35.5% LD %.
That got him promoted to AAA on August 30th where he found some struggles against the more mature pitchers initially. In his first AAA games he slashed .079/.255/.158/.413 with 22 Ks and 4 BBs in 47 PAs. Then, like in each other levels, he made some adjustments slashing .299/.390/.582/.972 with 16 Ks and 8 BBs over his next 77 PAs to end the season.
While his numbers were very good overall, there are some concerns over the swing and miss, particularly against some high velocity fastballs. At times it appears he cheats to get to fastballs leaving him susceptible to offspeed pitches. AAA pitchers were busting him up and in and he struggled at times times to get his bat on plain, so there is some concerns by some scouts that could be a problem at the major league level. He also struggled once again against left-handed pitching slashing just .194/.329/.287/.616 in 158 PAs with just two home runs and 53 Ks across all three levels. His hitting did improve against them as he moved up, especially drawing more walks, but he does not hit for power and really struggles against left-handed breaking pitches.
Defensively Cowser runs well on the go, but at times doesn’t get good reads. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds already (maybe more weight), it’s doubtful he will be able to play anything more than a merely adequate centerfield suggesting a move to corner outfield would be best. With Camden Yards’ spacious left field, left field might be a better fit even though he has enough arm to play RF.
What we don’t know: Cowser can hit, but there are some questions at times about his ability hit good fastballs. Can he close up that hole? There are also concerns about his ability hit left-handed pitching which could limit him to a platoon role if he can’t improve. Can he improve enough to be a full-time everyday regular? Defensively, while he can play centerfielder effectively now, how will getting older and gaining weight affect is already fringy?
What we think: Cowser is an interesting guy because at times he looks like one of the best hitters in the system and at times you wonder why he swings through so many hittable pitches. It seemed as though Cowser was working on impacting the baseball while offsetting that with making contact. The good news is that at every level he started slow, but made adjustments that made him one of the team’s best hitters. The platoon difference is a bit concerning, but there were some signs of improvement by the end of the year. Next year Cowser should get a look at the big league camp, but will most likely start the year back in AAA. With some good numbers and opportunity, Cowser could be patrolling the outfield in Camden Yards by no later than mid-season next year.