As a first-generation, wholesome Pennsylvanian man, I am a sucker for a name like Colton Cowser. Maybe it’s the mooing I hear in the back of my mind every time his name is uttered, or perhaps it’s Colton’s efficient stroke that stays on plane so well through the baseball that has me hooked. When I was a child, my parents used to drive me past cow pastures to help put me to sleep. A lot has changed since then. Now, my wife drives me past cow pastures to help put me to sleep. It’s comforting. So is having a prospect like Cowser in your Minor League system when the likes of Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Ryan Mountcastle and more already producing in the bigs. Cowser has the chance to make a Rutschman-like impact in 2023. That could be for the Orioles, for your fantasy team, or both. Let’s get into just how much of a boost Cowser could provide for your squad this season, as well as when he can be expected in Baltimore with the Birdies.
For starters, we’ve already covered Cowser’s college career and trek through the lower minors at length here at Razzball. You can find about a gazillion words I wrote on him shortly after being drafted fifth overall back in 2021 here. His initial breakdown as a college prospect can be read here when I ranked him as the No. 6 overall player in the 2021 college crop. And despite coming out of Sam Houston State and there being questions about his ability to hit premier pitching, Cowser has held his own every step up the way and looks like an everyday top-to-middle-of-the-order bat in the MLB. And now there are another thousand words about him, here:
In his first taste of pro ball in 2021, Cowser slashed .375/.490/.492 with two homers, seven steals, and more walks (25) than strikeouts (23) in 32 games/149 plate appearances. He split 2022 across High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, posting a .278/.406/.469 line backed by 19 homers and 18 steals. That came with a worrisome 27.8 K% and 15.0 BB%. Cowser has played all of the current campaign at Triple-A, where his .219/.339/.429 struggles at that level one year ago have improved tremendously to .300/.442/.500 through 32 games/154 plate appearances. He has drawn 29 walks while punching out 35 times, translating to an 18.8 BB% and 22.7 K%. Meanwhile, he’s popped five homers and stolen four bags. It’s clear Cowser’s approach has improved in the last calendar year, and while he’ll never be the 12.0 K%-type he was in college, there’s five-category potential with the up-and-coming Orioles star.
Cowser’s Minor League numbers pro-rate to 20 homers and 23 steals per 162 games, during which he has slashed .297/.425/.477. In the past, I’ve comped Cowser to Christian Yelich in the sense that he’s a hit tool-first prospect with the swing plane and body frame to add power as he develops. Here’s what I said:
Although I did temper my comparison in the latter of those two posts, I do believe Cowser will end up being much closer to Yelich as an everyday major leaguer than Nimmo or Zimmer. Here’s what I said when I ranked Cowser at No. 6 in the college crop:
“I comped Cowser to Christian Yelich in the sense that the former is being labeled as a hit tool-first prospect with roughly 15-20 home run power as a future big leaguer. Similar thoughts were common in scouting circles as it related to Yelich while he was progressing through the Marlins’ Minor League system, and I expect Cowser’s swing to develop similarly from the left side of the plate.”
Truth be told, both players possess(ed) innate bat-to-ball skills with a knack for finding holes in opposing defenses early on in their careers. What prospect ‘perts’ and fantasy managers alike often fail to recognize is that players who consistently put the ball in play and make hard contact will develop power, no matter how Rob Manfred decides to play with his balls in a particular year. And we all know he loves to play with his balls. The power numbers will jump so long as the hit tool pans out as expected, and the MLB hitting environment often accelerates that process.
It’s not like Cowser didn’t hit for power at Sam Houston State. He did. Despite being labeled with 60 hit and speed tools, his power tool was graded at 50. And quite frankly, it’s a fair grade. I won’t argue there. The issue comes when we begin projecting numbers for players with Cowser’s offensive profile at the MLB level, which is A) impossible to begin with and B) clouded further when you immediately limit a player’s ceiling by confusing raw power with in-game power. Even when Yelich turned in back-to-back top-two NL MVP finishes, no one was labeling Yelich as one of the game’s elite raw-power threats. The 40-homer pop came due to consistent hard contact in a friendly hitting environment. A hitter that was always great was made even better by tapping into more in-game power and launching the ball in an age of the game where such an approach was rewarded more often than not.
And that’s me overly quoting me in hopes Grey doesn’t actually read this story and simply checks the word count! But I’ll RT everything in that blurb to the present day in hopes that Elon hasn’t changed the algorithm again, inadvertently pushing said RT into Kristen Bell’s direct messages.
But back to the point, Cowser is a player I would be looking for shares of in dynasty formats right now and adding to all my watch lists in redraft leagues. I see little reason for Baltimore to keep him in Triple-A much longer than the start of June. His plate discipline and approach and steadily improving at Triple-A, and it doesn’t appear there is much more for a player who was already relatively polished coming out of college to work on. He has gap-to-gap power, which should be his MLB calling card and can hit the ball out to all fields.
Here’s him going oppo taco:
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 2, 2023
Let’s pull one now, eh? Where’s that in-game pop the ‘perts’ are worried about?
"That ball is destroyed."
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 22, 2023
I think that might project.
Oh yeah, he can field it, too.
— Eric_Birdland (@Eric_Birdland) August 5, 2022
Long story short, Cowser is primed to be the next call-up in what is developing into a finely-constructed Birdland Battle Machine. He has the mature approach to contribute to your fantasy lineup immediately and should be up for good once the call comes. There’s a chance he’s a top-10 outfielder in the AL by the end of next season. And I don’t think that’s crazy talk.
That’s all for this week, Razzball fam! As always, I’m happy to take this conversation into the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.