Earlier this week the Los Angeles Angels promoted third base prospect Kaleb Cowart to the major league roster. A first round pick back in 2010, Cowart has seen his prospect stock wax and wane; let's see where he stands currently.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
Bats: S Throws: R HT: 6-3 WT: 190 DOB: June 2, 1992
2011: Grade B-; 2012: Grade B-; 2013: Grade B+; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C
After two disappointing seasons in Double-A, erstwhile hot prospect Kaleb Cowart began 2015 in the California League. He wasn’t great but he wasn’t terrible and revised hitting mechanics gave some room for optimism, leading to a promotion to Triple-A in June, skipping past the bad karma at Arkansas. Cowart went on a tear at Salt Lake and hit consistently well for the first time since 2012. Yes, it was the Pacific Coast League and yes he wasn’t terrific during a major league trial, but the season was enough to save his career as a hitter, postponing any conversion to pitching (which was the other option given his strong arm). Cowart’s defense at third base, which had deteriorated in 2014, also rebounded along with his hitting production, likely a result of better overall confidence. The key now will be maintaining his revamped swing for a full season. Grade C+.
So far things look pretty good for 2016: Cowart was hitting .303/.352/.454 for Salt Lake with 12 walks and 36 strikeouts in 152 at-bats. He hit .323/.395/.491 last year at the same level, so it is safe to say that he doesn't have much left to prove in the Pacific Coast League. He was playing quite well defensively at Salt Lake, even playing three games at shortstop without embarrassing himself, so there's some glove value here to go with the offensive potential.
Cowart hit .174/.255/.283 in his 46 at-bat major league trial last summer so it remains to be seen how he'll handle major league competition with more consistent playing time. The key takeaway from this April and May: the revamped swing mechanics are still in place and were still working for Salt Lake. Will they work in the majors?
Sabermetric projection systems are quite pessimistic: Steamer projects him at .220/.280/.318, PECOTA at .216/.273/.321. They are looking at the broad picture of his career of course, so his improved performance over the last 12 months is outweighed by his poor numbers from past seasons. A straight MLE from 2015-2016 Salt Lake would be more on the order of .250/.310/.360 or so. That's still nothing special but it gets him in the picture as a role player and at age 23 he could still improve from here.
Overall, Cowart has done enough to save his career as a position player and postpone the suggested move to the mound. Whether he builds on that to become a viable regular rather than just a bench asset remains to be seen, but it is progress.