When outfielder Colton Cowser screened the first call he received from Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias on draft night, it was a rare instance when he failed to connect.
The Orioles made Cowser the fifth overall pick last year after he batted .374/.490/.680 in 55 games with Sam Houston State. He had more walks (42) than strikeouts (32), exactly the kind of high-contact hitter who fits Baltimore’s profile.
“I think one thing that’s just really rare with him, especially in today’s game, is the hit tool and the power without striking out,” Elias said. “He’s an elite contact hitter, uses the whole field.
“He runs. He throws. He plays center field and plays it well. He’s just really able to do it all and those types of profiles are hard to find.”
The missed call was just about the only misstep for Cowser, who quickly hit his way to Low-A Delmarva and hit .347/.476/.429 in 25 games.
“I think that there’s always things that can help you grow your game, and I think this year kind of introduced me to some of those things,” Cowser said.
“I think the pace of the game, it’s a little different than college. There’s more routine-based. It’s more on your own. You’re playing every day pretty much. It’s kind of on you to adjust and get your business done, and I think that this little shortened season kind of helped me do that and get into a good routine.”
Cowser’s bat will accelerate his movement through the system.
The Orioles assigned Cowser to their fall instructional camp and invited him to two hitters’ minicamps in January. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and three of his coaches flew to Sarasota, Fla., and watched Cowser and eight other players work out.
“It’s been pretty crazy whenever I sit down and actually think about it,” Cowser said. “I’m really blessed to be in the position I am in and very, very grateful.”
— The Orioles hired New Britain (Conn.) High head coach Roberto Mercado, 42, as their manager at High-A Aberdeen. Mercado also was an assistant coach in the Cape Cod League with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox from 2014-21 and was head coach of the Goodwill Series American team in New Zealand and Australia from 2017-21.
— Outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick in 2020 who hasn’t played after being diagnosed with myocarditis, participated in both hitting minicamps. Kjerstad, who also impressed at the instructional camp, is expected to be invited to big league spring training.