- Full name Cole Tyler Flowers
- Born 01/24/1986 in Roswell, GA
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 260 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Chipola Junior College
- Debut 09/03/2009
- Drafted in the 33rd round (1,007th overall) by the Atlanta Braves in 2005.
Organization Prospect Rankings
When the White Sox got Flowers from the Braves in the Javier Vazquez trade before the 2009 season, his bat seemed to be a given. The question was whether he could handle a pitching staff well enough to become a full-time regular behind the plate. His power was his calling card and made him one of the organization's top prospects--until he floundered in Triple-A last year. Flowers looked lost at the plate early in the season and never really recovered. He still has size, strength and raw power but didn't take advantage of hitter-friendly Knights Stadium in Charlotte, slugging a career-low .434. His plate discipline and pitch recognition regressed, especially when he got breaking balls in fastball counts, and Triple-A pitchers exploited the holes in his max-effort swing. While Flowers has improved his receiving skills, his stiff body and limited athleticism still raise concerns. He has an average arm and threw out 26 percent of basestealers last season. He's a well below-average runner who's a liability on the bases. Flowers hasn't earned the confidence of manager Ozzie Guillen, who rarely played him during a September callup, even after Chicago was eliminated from playoff contention. The White Sox had hoped Flowers would be ready when A.J. Pierzynski's contract expired after the 2010 season, but they re-signed Pierzynski and plan to use Ramon Castro as his backup. Flowers' power is still intriguing, so he'll return to Triple-A and try to erase memories of 2010.
The headliner in the deal that sent Javier Vazquez to Atlanta for four young players, Flowers has been everything the White Sox hoped. He hit as expected and while many scouts thought he'd have to move to first base, he held his own behind the plate in Double-A and Triple-A last year. Chicago rewarded him with a September callup. Flowers combines light-tower power with plate discipline, making it easy to project his bat into the middle of a big league lineup. He generates his pop through his strength and size, and he has good hand-eye coordination and advanced pitch recognition. Pitchers like throwing to him because he's a good communicator and works hard on gameplans. Managers rated him the top defensive catcher in the Double-A Southern League last year. He has an average arm and has improved his footwork and release, thowing out 29 percent of basestealers last year. Flowers' size can be a problem behind the plate, limiting his quickness in blocking and handling tough pitches. One scout said Flowers "spent more time at the backstop than Bob Uecker" early in 2009, but that he improved throughout the season. Though he's athletic for a catcher, he's still a below-average runner. Flowers is ready to hit in the major leagues, but the White Sox have A.J. Pierzynski in the final year of his contract. They want Flowers playing every day and continuing to polish his defense, so he'll open 2010 at Triple-A Charlotte.
Flowers signed with the Braves as a draft-and-follow out of Chipola (Fla.) JC, where he played with rising prospects such as Brewers third baseman Mat Gamel and Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger. He tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs shortly after turning pro, drawing a 50-game suspension. He spent most of his first full pro season in 2007 at first base while recovering from knee surgery that March, but he moved back behind the plate in 2008. He started terrorizing pitchers with his prodigious power in big league camp and continued all the way through the Arizona Fall League, which he led with 12 homers and a .973 slugging percentage. White Sox GM Kenny Williams saw him play several times in the AFL and made him the centerpiece of the deal that sent Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to Atlanta in December. Flowers has a potent bat with plus power that continues to improve. He excels at working deep counts--he led the high Class A Carolina League with 98 walks--and forcing pitchers to throw him pitches he can mash to all fields. Some scouts wonder if Flowers is more of a mistake hitter than a true power threat, but the big question is whether he can stay behind the plate. There are mixed reports on his arm, receiving skills and footwork, though his backers believe he just needs more experience. He threw out only 28 percent of basestealers in 2008, giving up 112 steals and committing 11 passed balls in 86 games. He's still learning to call a game and master many of the mechanics of catching, such as making accurate throws and blocking balls. Williams says he's confident Flowers will develop into an all-star catcher. He runs well for his size but is still a below-average runner. Flowers was blocked by Brian McCann with the Braves, but Chicago expects him to be able to take over when A.J. Pierzynski's contract expires after the 2010 season, if not before. Flowers likely will start 2009 in Double-A.
The fourth draft-and-follow on this Top 10, Flowers began his pro career in inauspicious fashion. He tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs shortly after signing in May 2006, and his 50-game suspension cost him the first month of the 2007 season. After returning, he ranked among the system's leaders in most offensive categories, including second-place finishes in doubles and RBIs. Flowers has a disciplined approach and hits line drives with authority to all fields. He trusts his hands and drives through the ball. His home run total could increase significantly as he develops more loft in his swing. The Braves consider him the best receiver in their system behind Clint Sammons. Flowers has excellent lateral movement for his size, with consistent hands and a strong arm. In part because he had knee surgery last March and spent much of his first full season at first base, Flowers has little experience handling professional pitchers. He wasn't 100 percent behind the plate in 2007, as evidenced by throwing out just four of 24 basestealers. He moves well for a big man but is still a below-average runner. The Braves aren't concerned about future performance-enhancing drug use and say he simply made a bad decision while still at Chipola (Fla.) JC. Flowers has shown what he's capable of accomplishing from an offensive perspective, and he'll be even more valuable if he returns behind the plate on a full-time basis in 2008. After catching and playing first base in Hawaii Winter Baseball, he'll make the jump to high Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Flowers' best tools are his ability to hit, hit for power and control the strike zone. He has excellent plate discipline, recognizing offspeed pitches well with a patient approach that makes him an on-base machine. His size, strength and power swing give him plus power that's evident both in batting practice and game situations. Flowers is an offensive-minded catcher, but he made significant improvements behind the plate his year. While some projected him as a first baseman entering 2009, his throwing, receiving, blocking and footwork all got better. He threw out 29 percent of basestealers between Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Some scouts still see Flowers as a bit stiff, but others think he could become an average defensive catcher with more work. Like most backstops, he's a below-average runner.
Flowers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs shortly after turning in pro 2006, but he has put that behind him by consistently producing at the plate since serving a 50-game suspension. He ranked fourth in the CL with 88 RBIs and sixth with a .494 slugging percentage, in large part because he has advanced strike-zone judgment and consistently works counts in his favor (he drew a league-high 98 walks). He may need to shorten his swing in order to keep pace with more advanced pitchers as he rises through the minors. Flowers has more work to do defensively after spending his first full pro season behind the plate. A first baseman after recovering from knee surgery in 2007, he flashed a plus arm this year but struggled with his footwork and threw out just 27 percent of basestealers. His receiving skills also need work.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Chicago White Sox in 2010
- Rated Best Power Hitter in the Chicago White Sox in 2010
- Rated Best Defensive Catcher in the Southern League in 2009
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Southern League in 2009