While the Orioles were encouraged by the performance of several hitters in their minor league system, especially players at higher levels who had big years, including Adley Rutschman, Kyle Stowers and Jordan Westburg, the group coming behind this group also made its mark during the 2021 season.
We are talking mostly about the 2021 draft class headed by outfielder Colton Cowser, selected No. 5 overall in round one in July out of Sam Houston State.
Most of the draft picks got their feet wet in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League after the draft. Then, on Aug. 17, the low Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds added 12 draft picks from the class of ‘21, along with 2020 pick Coby Mayo.
That group started raking at the plate from day one in Salisbury and almost never stopped. Delmarva went 20-10 in its last 30 games with the draft picks, and they averaged 7.5 runs per game in those games.
Cowser emerged as someone with star potential. He went 11-for-22 in eight games in the FCL and then batted .347 in 25 Delmarva games.
Orioles director of player development Matt Blood talked up Cowser during an interview this week on the “Inside Access” show on 105.7 The Fan.
“This guy is phenomenal,” Blood said during the radio interview. “He is a big, strong, athletic kid with his head on straight. Very smart, very personable, hard worker and can hit. He can really hit. And he knows the strike zone, he uses the whole field and he’s got legit power and can play in the outfield, center field. So, this guy is the complete package, and honestly, the fact that we got him at No. 5 to me feels like a steal. This guy was our favorite guy in the draft, and he’s already shown kind of what he is and I have a lot of faith in this guy.”
Over 33 games between the two teams after the draft, Cowser, 21, batted .375/.490/.492/.982 with eight doubles, two homers, 30 runs, seven steals and 34 RBIs.
Blood was asked if Cowser could move fast on the O’s farm.
“I think so,” he said. “Like I said, he knows the strike zone. He’s got great feel to hit and he can play good defense. That’s usually a good combination to move. You saw Jordan Westburg play at three levels this year. It’s a similar deal. Jordan, highly mature kid, can hit and play defense and he moved all the way to Double-A. You could see Cowser on that similar trajectory next year.”
The ‘21 Delmarva team scored 720 runs in 120 games, breaking the club mark of 700 set by the 2000 team in 136 games. The Shorebirds also set a team record by hitting 113 home runs.
Among O’s minor leaguers who played at low Single-A or below and had 100 or more plate appearances this year, no one topped Cowser’s .982 OPS, although Mayo was right there with him at .981.
Rays-Red Sox resume today: The all-American League East AL Division Series matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox resumes this afternoon at Fenway Park.
The Rays won Game 1, 5-0 on a nine-hitter, but Boston produced 20 hits and hit five homers in Friday’s impressive 14-6 win to even the series. The Red Sox had six players drive in two runs or more and went 9-for-18 with runners in scoring position. J.D. Martinez returned to the Boston lineup, and his three-run homer in the fifth gave them an 8-5 lead as he went 4-for-5.
In the Division Series, under the 2-2-1 format, teams that have split the first two games on the road before heading home for Game 3 go onto to win the series 23 of 36 times, for 64 percent.
On the mound today at 4:07 p.m., Tampa Bay right-hander Drew Rasmussen (0-1, 4.24 ERA) pitches against Boston right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (11-9, 3.75), who allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday in the AL wild card win over the Yankees.