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You’ve got to give Mike Elias credit for sticking to his guns.
The Orioles’ general manager has developed a strong modus operandi through his first three drafts as Head Oriole — use your first-round draft pick on an uber-productive college player, particularly productive hitters.
Elias followed his rubric again Sunday night, drafting Sam Houston State outfielder Colton Cowser.
Don’t tell Elias that he reached for Cowser, because you’d be wasting your time. Cowser more than earned his slot with the Orioles as a college center fielder, sporting an OPS higher than 1.000 in both of his two full seasons as a collegiate player.
Cowser’s always been good with the bat, batting .361 in 2019 and .374 in 2021. He slugged over .600 both of those seasons and in 2021, Cowser hit 16 home runs. He hit just seven in 2019.
The scouts agree with the numbers.
“One of the best bats in the college class, Cowser has a pure left-handed stroke and repeatedly finds the barrel,” according to his MLB Pipeline profile. “His quick hands allow him to pepper line drives all over the field as he executes a very controlled approach.”
The Southland Conference Player of the Year should be able to stick in center field too, increasing his value.
Cowser’s selection will be a sticking point with Elias’ detractors. Cowser was seen more of a mid-round pick, not someone who went in the top five. Elias passed on several talented players, including shortstops Khalil Watson and Brady House, as well as Vanderbilt star Kumar Rocker.
But Elias is following his M.O. It’s been established at this point. Adley Rutschman was the best hitter in all of college baseball and was the consensus No. 1 overall pick in 2019. Heston Kjerstad wasn’t the consensus No. 2 pick in 2020, nor was he even considered a top-five talent. But Kjerstad was a rock-solid hitter at Arkansas, just like Cowser was at Sam Houston State.
I understand some of the frustrations from fans regarding Elias’ leadership. The team is bad (albeit by design) and some of the organization’s prospects like Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther are struggling at the major league level.
But fans have got to see this through. Cowser’s selection shouldn’t need defending but it does. He’s a star hitter in the making with defensive value in the outfield. Elias believes he’s a five-tool player and there’s reason to suggest he is.
Give it some time, folks. There is a plan and thankfully, it’s clear as day. Elias isn’t hiding the ball. He’s stocking his farm system with elite-level position players and counting on them to bring better days to Camden Yards.
We’ll see if it works out the way he wants it to.