Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
Craig Goldstein looks at the man stepping into Mike Trout's shoes as the top prospect in Los Angeles of Anaheim
As we alight upon the position known as the hot corner, I'd like to take a second to warn you that today's profile might be a bit shorter than the recent ones. That's because I did take a look at Kaleb Cowart nine months ago, and while he has changed as a player in terms of his progress towards maximizing his tools, the high end of those tools isn't likely to have changed much. If you haven't already, take a look at where Cowart landed on our Consensus Top 10 3B Prospects list and let us know what you think.
If a first round prospect can break out two years after he's drafted, then that's what we'll call Cowart's 2012. After a brief look at rookie ball in 2010, Cowart spent all of 2011 there as well, though as a prep product he was on level despite the Angels taking it slow. He was solid in 2011, though he was too prone to the strikeout, perhaps trying to justify the spelling of his first name. He did show solid power though, and continued to hone his approach from both sides of the plate. This was all a primer for 2012 though, when he truly stepped his game up. He split the season between Lo- and Hi-A as a 20-year old, showing his precociousness. His time in Lo-A showed real progress in his contact ability, as he dropped his K% from 25.4 in rookie ball to 15.2 in Lo-A. This is especially impressive as the Midwest League isn't always a forgiving environment for young hitters. That he was able to drop his K% a total of 8 percentage points while holding his BB% steady all in his first crack at full season ball speaks to his ability to make adjustments and the work he puts into his game. Hi-A was a bit of a struggle for him, but at 20 years old he is young for the level and he still will be even if the Angels opt to return him there to begin 2013, as he only turned 20 in June. Cowart's full season slash line across both levels comes to .276/.358/.452, perhaps not incredible, but the devil is in the details. Cowart's average suffered upon his promotion to Hi-A, but he drastically increased his BB% from 7.6 to 14.3, offsetting his similar rise in K% from 15.2 to 21.3. Cowart isn't likely to become a supreme contact hitter, but he does well enough and the strikeouts are a trade off for his power. Speaking of which, there's good news there as well. Cowart's ISO rose in Lo-A which again, can be a difficult environment for hitters. He did lose some in the ISO category upon his promotion to Hi-A and the California League, which is a bit of a surprise as it is generally considered an ideal hitting environment, but at the same time he was facing better pitching so we can't hold it against him too much.
When it comes to his scouting report, Cowart has taken strides to fulfill the promise that caused the Angels to pop him in the first round. He became more comfortable as a left-handed hitter, though his swing still causes more excitement from his natural right side. That said, he showed a classic left-handed power stroke, cracking 14 of his 16 home runs in 2012 as a southpaw. Cowart generates his power from both sides, using plus bat speed, created from strong hands and quick wrists - and is projected to hit more than 20 home runs at his peak. As discussed above, his approach at the plate has improved from previous seasons, helping him to hit in more favorable counts. A potential first round pick as a pitcher, Cowart shows more than enough arm for third base. He compliments his strong arm with soft hands and sharp instincts. While he's not fleet of foot, he moves his feet well on defense and shows enough range to stick at the position. He did post 14 stolen bases in 2012, and while it doesn't profile as a major aspect to his game going forward, he won't leave you completely bereft in the category either. His makeup is another mark in the plus column for Cowart, as he is a hard worker, who shows the ability to take instruction and actively implement it into this game.
Cowart isn't going to be an elite power threat a la Miguel Sano, nor is he a pure hitter in the mold of Nick Castellanos, but he is an average hitter with solid power and a great chance at sticking at the position. He could add power as he continues to fill out his frame, but even if he doesn't he should be an average regular at third base, with the potential for more. He's not going to set your world on fire as a prospect, but he's got a good probability of being useful, which a chance to be more than that. He's a worthwhile name to keep an eye on, and definitely worth a minor league roster spot in dynasty or deep keepers.