The Orioles had a lot of good options in the 2021 MLB Draft. Many experts had them picking either a pitcher or infielder with the fifth overall selection. The Orioles instead decided to go a different direction and pick Colton Cowser, an outfielder from Sam Houston State.
The Cowser pick got some heavy criticism when it got announced. It mainly came from the Orioles not taking a pitcher, which the fans wanted, and taking an outfielder, which was already a position of strength in the system. Another criticism was that Cowser didn’t seem like a talent you should take with a top 5 pick. Cowser had a lot of success in college, but scouts weren’t sure of his overall true impact due to his perceived underwhelming power and not knowing if he could stick in center field.
The Cowser pick has paid some immediate dividends with how well he has performed this year. Cowser is currently with the other draft prospects from the 2021 class in Low – A Delmarva. He is batting .404/.516/.545 with two home runs and eight doubles.
Cowser’s best tool has been his pure hitting ability. He has a smooth left-handed swing that he uses to get to any pitch he wants to. He has an all fields approach, and an advanced hitting approach, which Elias has valued in his draft picks. Cowser currently has 40 hits in 27 games played.
Another tool that came out of nowhere for me was Cowser’s on-base ability and his base running. Cowser has matched his significant number of hits with a lot of walks. He currently has more walks than strikeouts, with 21 walks and 19 strikeouts. This is another tool that Elias values very highly in his draft picks and Cowser is an on-base machine. Cowser also runs the bases very well, and he’s smart on the bases. He already has seven steals this year and has shown above-average speed on the bases.
These two aspects were the most surprising factor for me when looking at Cowser’s profile. I knew he was a great pure hitter and that he had a good approach, but his overall ability to make pitchers work at-bats and punish the walks with stolen bases is just so valuable.
Now we get into the two aspects of Cowser’s biggest questions: his power and his outfield defense. Cowser does have an excellent slugging percentage at .545, but he doesn’t have the baseline stats like home runs and doubles to back that up just yet. As a projection, I expect his power to get better and have 20 home run power, but he doesn’t sell out for his strength, so it is tricky to say just how much he has. However, I think his extra-base – hit ability is defiantly there in his profile, so the lack of home runs should be made up.
Cowser’s defense has been tough to figure out for me, mainly because he hasn’t played a lot of center fields and has played primarily in the corners. Still, Cowser has shown that he could stick in center field if given the opportunity. I say this because he has plenty of range, and he tracks fly balls very well in the air. Cowser also has a good arm and can be accurate with it as well. The issue is that I am not sure if he will get an opportunity to play center field because the Orioles currently have a 30–30 candidate in center right now in Cedric Mullins. I do believe he will be great defensively in the right field so that the Orioles could have a great defense in practically every outfield position in the future.
Cowser is a fun player to watch day in and day out with his pure hitting ability and excellent approach, while also making pitchers pay for walks with stolen bases. He can also keep pitchers honest with his developing home run power and great extra-base hit ability. I think Cowser was worth the pick when you add this to his great defense in the corners and the ability to stick in center field.
Cowser is an enjoyable prospect that should also be getting some top 100 love and is another tool in the loaded tool shed that is the Orioles farm system.