Meet the Baby Birds is a new series that will have weekly posts highlighting many of the Baltimore Orioles minor league players. I will be doing deep dives into the history of the player and providing an estimate about when we can expect to see that player in Camden Yards. In this inaugural edition, we will take a look at the hottest Baby Bird in the farm system, Colton Cowser.
Cowser, a Texas native, played three years off collegiate baseball at Sam Houston State. Cowser dominated college pitching to the tune of a .354/.460/.608 combined slash line with 24 home run, 112 RBI's, 125 runs scored, 31 stolen bases and a 70/76 K/BB ratio. With 168 hits over 125 collegiate games, there wasn't anything that could slow Cowser down. He had nine triples in college, including seven in his freshman season. Cowser spent some time at third base his freshman season, making 16 appearances at the hot corner, but made the majority of his appearances came in the outfield, where he has thrived ever since.
Once there was nothing left to prove in college baseball, Cowser entered the 2021 MLB draft. Cowser fit right into the exact mold that Orioles GM Mike Elias was looking for. Cowser had a strong left-handed bat with a college pedigree and was a proven hitter. With that in mind, the Orioles selected Cowser in the first round (5th overall).
Cowser made a brief stop in the Florida Coast League, after being drafted, where he tormented pitchers and hit .500 in seven games. He finished out the season in Low-A Delmarva where he continued to show his hitting talent. Cowser hit so well that he started the 2022 season in with High-A Aberdeen. Colton had an uncharacteristically low batting average (.258), but he did have 16 stolen bases in Aberdeen.
Overall, Cowser performed well enough that he was promoted to Double-A Bowie after just 63 games. In Bowie, everything seemed to click for Cowser where he batted .341/.469/.568 and had 10 home runs in 49 games. Cowser was promoted for a second time in 2022, this time to Triple-A Norfolk. He stumbled with the Tides and was only able to hit .219/.339/.429 in 27 Triple-A games to end the season.
The Birds gave Cowser an invite to major league Spring Training in 2023 to get a better look at him. Cowser appeared in six games this spring, where he batted just .222 but had a .462 OBP. After he struggled in Norfolk to end 2022, there wasn't much chance he was going to force his way onto the Orioles roster to start 2023.
But this season has seen the true Cowser in Triple-A. Colton has batted .333/.471/.568 in 35 games this season and has an incredible 1.039 OPS. All he does is hit. By the way, he also has a 1.000 fielding percentage, making zero errors in 67 chances this season.
Cowser is the Orioles #3 prospect and the #32 overall prospect per MLB.com. He probably would have cracked the roster on most teams, but the Orioles are very deep. The starting outfield in Baltimore consists of all-stars Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander, with fan favorite Austin Hays in left field. All three starters are having good seasons and are secure in their spots.
The fourth outfielder, Ryan McKenna, has some ups and downs but is a perfect fourth outfielder. McKenna is elite defensively and can play all three outfield spots very well. He has great speed and can be used as a pinch runner. Even though McKenna is a streaky hitter, when he's hot he puts up good numbers. I also wouldn't want Cowser in a fourth outfielder role, he's an everyday player.
The most logical spot for Cowser is held by Kyle Stowers. Stowers is hitting very poorly so far this season slashing .077/.172/.077 and could use a tune up back down in Norfolk. Cowser has played mostly left field in the minor but could fit in nicely in right field for the Orioles, allowing Hyde to DH Santander a bit more.
The biggest obstacle is that Cowser is not yet on the 40-man roster and the O's would need to clear space for him. The person most likely to be removed from the 40-man roster might be Ryan O'Hearn. O'Hearn has been solid in limited appearances with the Birds but is replaceable. The Orioles have a number of options at first base when Ryan Mountcastle needs a break. If the Orioles DFA O'Hearn and send Stowers down to Norfolk, they can bring Cowser to Baltimore and either keep Ortiz on the roster or maybe bring Jordan Westburg up. They have plenty of options that will be explored in future articles in this Meet the Baby Birds series.
You might say that Cowser is knocking on the door at Camden Yards to be let in, but the season he's having would suggest that he's knocking with a sledgehammer. I will estimate that Cowser will break in before the end of June.