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Spin for Stars: #10 - Colton Cowser
These are more fun than even I had anticipated. We’ve got a great community in the Dynasty Dugout discord full of active members that make me better continuously – including Regan (@brewvaca on Twitter), the culprit responsible for today’s Star!
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As a reminder, this series is based on the spin of a random number wheel and is an exercise in diving deeper on prospects between full-rank updates. The wheel is numbered 1 to 300, so we’ll get a wide array of names as we progress, and it might lead to rank changes in real-time. Let’s dive into Colton Cowser.
Colton Cowser, Outfielder
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Age / Height / Weight: 23, 6’2, 220 lbs
Overall Prospect Rank: 10
Positional Prospect Rank: 4
The 2021 draft class was considered relatively shallow for proven college bats. In fact, only three college hitters were taken in the first 15 selections and five in the first 30: Henry Davis, Colton Cowser, Sal Frelick, Matt McLain, and Trey Sweeney. Just three of those names came from traditional power five conferences: Davis at #1 out of Louisville, Frelick at #15 out of Boston College, and McLain at #17 out of UCLA. It’s a stark contrast from this year’s class which figures to feature 12 to 15 college bats in the first 30 picks.
The Orioles did extraordinarily well despite the unorthodox composition of exceptional talent available. They took Cowser at #5 and inked him for $4.9M, well under the slot value of $6.2M, saving them an additional $1.3M to be aggressive down the rest of the board. They took Connor Norby in the second round, now a consensus top-100 prospect, and John Rhodes and 2023 standout Creed Willems in rounds 3 and 8, respectively.
That’s been the blueprint for the Orioles in recent years. Grab elite, premium talent when necessary (see: Adley Rutschman and Jackson Holliday in 2019 and 2022) or out-scout and out-develop the field to stretch their bonus pool dollars further (see: Heston Kjerstad in 2020 and Colton Cowser in 2021). This begs the question: What made the Orioles so comfortable going under slot value to take Cowser at fifth overall?
There were questions about Cowser’s ability to compete against high-level competition as a product of Sam Houston State. However, his track record of performance was rivaled only by Henry Davis, and he demonstrated significant strides in power and speed (no pun intended), leading some to believe he could stick in center field as an impact bat. Those tools paired with excellent plate discipline and zone control made him an attractive target to front offices that were inclined to dismiss small school concerns.
Once in professional ball, he started to produce almost immediately. He compiled a .375/.490/.492 line in 149 plate appearances split between Orioles Orange at the Florida Complex and Low-A Delmarva following the draft. Most evaluators were unsurprised by his ability to get on base at a high clip – he walked more than he struck out in college, always with great batting averages – and the level of competition was perhaps the weakest it’s been in years following the loss pandemic season. 2022 proved more challenging as he got off to a slow start with High-A Aberdeen, considered to be his first real challenge since his college tenure. He hit the cover off the ball for Bowie (pronounced more like ‘bouy’ than it is akin to David Bowie) and finished the year by being one of just a few players from the 2021 class to reach Triple-A.
He’s been on another level this year. His 150 wRC+ is 8th in the International League and 2nd among players 25 or younger (Christian Encarnacion-Strand has him beaten by a smidge). He’s making plenty of contact (80.3% z-con) and doing damage when he connects with an 89.7 mph average exit velo (110.3 mph max). There are just two minuscule adjustments I’d like to see him make; elevating more (he’s running a 47% ground ball rate and a 6.9-degree launch angle) and being more aggressive on pitches in the zone (59.0% z-swing). His patience may turn into passivity, and while an 18.3% walk rate will play well in points formats, I’d rather he sacrifice a little whiff and chase for the opportunity to attack pitches he can drive.
There’s little opportunity to push him up my ranks at the moment. He’s certainly not falling, either, so he will remain at #10 overall and #4 among outfielders. He is likely the most impactful bat yet to debut this year and is worth prioritizing should he be available or the price tag doesn’t reflect his status as a top-10 prospect.