Top pick Colton Cowser banks hits now while looking to future

SALISBURY, Md. - Orioles top draft pick Colton Cowser seems to be making a pretty seamless transition to full-season baseball. Promoted to low Single-A Delmarva this week, he went 2-for-6 in his first two games with a double, two runs, an RBI, two walks and one strikeout.

He had a 1-for-5 night with a booming RBI double in the third inning last night as Delmarva beat Fredericksburg 11-9. The Shorebirds are 3-0 since the arrival of 12 draft picks this week from the class of 2021.

Cowser began his pro career in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League, where he went 11-for-22 in seven games with a homer and eight RBIs. The promise the outfielder showed at Sam Houston State, which led the Orioles to take him No. 5 in round one last month, was on full display, this time in the pro ranks.

“You know, I was mainly trying to get timing,” he said of his introduction to the professional game in Florida. “The first game, I hadn’t seen a pitch in two months (yet he had two hits and a homer in that game Aug. 2). Didn’t know what to expect. It’s like riding a bike, I guess you could say. It’s really exciting because the team believes in you, they took a chance on you.”

Cowser, 21, from Cypress, Texas, was the 2021 Southland Conference Player of the Year. He played in 55 games this season in college, batting .374/.490/.680 with 10 doubles, two triples, 16 homers, 61 runs, 17 steals and 52 RBIs. He recorded an OPS of 1.170, walking more times than he struck out, 42 to 32. He batted .354/.460/.609/.1.067 for his career with 78 walks and 70 strikeouts.

Known for producing some of the top exit velocities in the college game this year, Cowser’s first Delmarva at-bat Tuesday at Perdue Stadium produced a comebacker to the mound hit at 100 mph. He later doubled off the wall in right-center at 102 mph.

Now he looks forward to learning and growing even more with his future offense through the Orioles use of data, technology and analytics on the farm.

Cowser-O's-Dugout-Sidebar.jpg“When I came in, actually last week, we hopped on some technology and they broke down different things,” he said this week in Salisbury. “There are some holes here and there and you know they presented me with ways to improve that and that’s really cool. But in the games, from the start, they’ve kind of just let me be me. So that is really nice. When we do get to the offseason, I think that’s the time to start tinkering and look at some of those things they found with certain technologies I’ve never used.”

And he feels it will help him very much.

“Oh, absolutely. I definitely think this will help me in the future and really be able to use my body as a whole,” said Cowser. “Use it from the ground up and that is something I’m looking forward to working on in the offseason.”

Cowser said he saw some premium velocity in the FCL and he projected he may see less on the radar gun in the Low-A East but may see more complete pitchers to challenge him.

“Velocity-wise, I’ve heard the jump to here, it may actually be down,” he said. “In Florida, there were a lot of young guys that throw really hard and they’re not very polished right now. So they’re trying to figure out command and things like that. So coming up here, I’m expecting a little bit more command and more pitchability, I guess you could say, than there was in Florida. That’s kind of what I’ve heard, so I’m really excited for that challenge. Coming from Florida, I felt like I was ready to come up here. Now let’s see what happens.”

Cowser was asked about his perception of the Orioles on draft night when they selected him to now.

“I guess my perception was I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I know it’s a great organization with a lot of history that had gone through some rough patches. But I know the farm system is loaded right now with a lot of great players and they have a great philosophy right now on the farm. Now that I’ve gone through all that, I’m really excited and looking forward to what the future holds with this organization.”

Shorebirds win again: In Delmarva’s win last night, outfielder John Rhodes, the club’s third-round draft pick (No. 76 overall) out of the University of Kentucky, drove in five runs. He was 1-for-8 in his first two Delmarva games, but last night went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer and a pair of RBI singles.

Rhodes, who had a .905 OPS this season in 52 games at Kentucky, showed that he has some smarts about hitting when we talked at the ballpark this week.

He discussed working with some of the hitting coaches on the O’s farm.

“For us, we try not to look at batting average much,” he said. “We look at OPS and things that have an impact on the game. So just getting on base as many times as you can. Hitting some doubles and homers and scoring runs. That’s the main thing. We are just trying to get on base as much as we can.

“We have little things that get sent to us after the game that determines our strike zone efficiency and whether we are swinging at strikes and taking balls. That kind of stuff is different from college. And that is like, wow. Once you have a good day in controlling the strike zone, usually your output at the plate is better. That is where the organization is ahead of the game in my opinion and I think that’s moving in the right direction.”

And he cited major leaguers and how they can control the strike zone.

“Look at the best hitters in the game, like Mike Trout. They don’t swing at balls. They hit strikes and take balls,” Rhodes said. “You ask a pitcher here like Ty (Blach, on a rehab assignment) that has big league time. You talk about who is your hardest hitter to face and they talk about guys like Bo Bichette. What makes him tough? He’ll say, ‘They don’t swing at my strikeout pitches, they don’t swing at balls.’ So when they attack you in the zone, that is when you can do damage.”

Delmarva had an 8-2 lead last night, then fell behind 9-8. The Shorebirds scored three times in the last of the eighth to pull out another win. They tied it 9-9 on a wild pitch, went ahead 10-9 on a Donta’ Williams (O’s fourth-rounder) RBI double and went up 11-9 on Rhodes’ single for his fifth RBI of the night.

Delmarva is 51-42 overall and 3-0 since the draft picks showed up this week, scoring 24 runs in the three games.

High Single-A Aberdeen lost 8-7 to Wilmington, but Gunnar Henderson hit a solo homer and drove in two runs. Over his past seven games, he is 7-for-27 with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs.

Infielder Rylan Bannon hit two more homers for Triple-A Norfolk as the Tides beat Charlotte 11-6. Bannon went 4-for-5 and drove in six runs. Not bad for a player on a hot streak, but one that was batting .168 at gametime. He’s now making up for lost time. Bannon is 12-for-23 with eight homers and 16 RBIs over his last seven games. He has three two-homer games in his last seven contests and his OPS has improved from .495 to .735 in seven games.

On the mound, right-hander Ofelky Peralta allowed one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings in his latest start. He got the win and is 3-0 with an ERA of 5.06 after throwing a season-high 90 pitches.

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