Feb. 21, 2113; Tempe, AZ, USA: Los Angeles Angels infielder Kaleb Cowart poses for a portrait during photo day at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Top Prospect Recap; 46-50

We continue our recap of our pre-season top 100 prospects with #46-50.

#50 Kaleb Cowart, third baseman, Los Angeles Angels

Height/Weight: 6’3″, 195

Born: June 2, 1992 (age 21)

2013 Stats (AA Arkansas): .221/.279/.301, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 14 SB, 38 BB, 124 SO, 132 G (546 PA)

Heading into 2013…A former first round pick out of high school, Cowart was only 20 but had played well in High-A and was expected to rise quickly through the Angel’s barren minor league ranks. He had always been a plus defender at third and his 2012 performance indicated prowess with the bat, particularly in the power department.

Now that the 2013 season is over… It only takes two numbers to sum up Cowart’s season – .279 and .301. Those are his on base and slugging percentage, respectively. Cowart was simply lost at the plate, neither getting on base nor hitting for power. His OPS (On Base+Slugging, and generally a good measure of a hitter’s total value) of .580 was worse than any qualifiying player in all of Major League Baseball. This performance was largely a result of foundational decay, as his strikeout rate (23%) and walk rate (7%) were both rather poor.

Looking ahead…. The original hope was that Cowart would rake in AA and compete for a spot on the major league by spring training 2014, but his dismal season has all but ended that fantasy. Cowart will simply look to gather his bearings and the tools that got him here, and try to improve when he repeats AA next season.

Stock: DOWN!

#49 Austin Hedges, catcher, San Diego Padres

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 190

Born: August 18, 1992 (age 21)

2012 Stats (Between A+ Lake Elsinore and AA San Antonio): .260/.333/.390, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 8 SB, 28 BB, 54 SO, 86 G (341 PA)

Heading into 2013…Hedges fell to the second round in the 2011, but the Padres were willing to give him a 3 million dollar bonus and wrest him away from UCLA because of his exceptional glove. An excellent receiver behind the dish, Hedges hit well in his first full season in 2012, showing all the workings of an everyday catcher.

Now that the 2013 season is over… Hedges continued to be lauded by scouts for gold glove caliber catching while his hitting remained just above par. In A+ Lake Elsinore, he posted a .796 OPS and hit four home runs in 266 plate appearances – quality numbers for a 20 year old catching prospect – but he struggled after he was promoted to AA. These numbers can likely be largely discounted because he was playing against much older and more experienced competition (the average age of a AA player, according to Baseball America, is 24, and Hedges played his first game there at the age of 20), but it is worth a small note that he was completely over-matched, hitting .224/.297/.267 with no home runs in 75 at bats.

Looking ahead…. Despite his struggles there in 2013, Hedges will likely report to AA to start 2014. If he performs well, he could be called up at any point should anything happen to everyday catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Stock: Even

#48  Alex Meyer, right-handed pitcher, Minnesota Twins

Height/Weight: 6’9″, 220

Born: January 3, 1990 (age 23)

2013 Stats (AA New Britain): 4-3, 3.21 ERA, 13 GS, 70.0 IP, 29 BB (3.7 BB/9), 84 K (10.8 K/9), 1.264 WHIP

Heading into 2013…An imposing 6’9, Meyer always possessed a big mid-90’s fastball and wipe out slider that could produce swings and misses, but spotty command and mechanical difficulties served as roadblocks.

Now that the 2013 season is over… Although he missed most of the summer with a shoulder injury, Meyer’s season can easily be considered a success as he dominated when he was on the mound and is now back and pitching healthily in the Arizona Fall League. His fastball/slider/change combination produced troves of strikeouts and ground balls, and he controlled them adequately, if not exceptionally, leading to his 3.21 ERA.

Looking ahead…. Meyer looked polished in AA, and he could compete for a spot in the Twins’ thin major league rotation this coming spring training, although he would probably benefit from a little time in AAA to work out his control issues.

Stock: Up

#47  C.J. Cron, first baseman, Los Angeles Angels

Height/Weight: 6’4″, 235

Born: January 5, 1990 (age 23)

2012 Stats (with High-A Inland Empire): .276/.319/.428, 14 HR, 83 RBI, 8 SB, 23 BB (4% BB%), 83 SO, 134 G (565 PA)

Heading into 2013…Cron was a one dimensional power, who could neither field or run well, but absolutely raked in his first professional season, knocking out 27 home runs and hitting .293.  His walk rate could use significant improvement, but his low 2012 strikeout total was encouraging from a player with such power.

Now that the 2013 season is over… We were higher on Cron than most, as he was left entirely of BA’s, MLB.com’s, and Keith Law’s top 100 list, and while we sometimes hit on players they miss, they may have been right on Cron. While his numbers weren’t terrible in and of themselves, the lack of power and on base ability makes him almost completely ill-equipped to handle first base in the majors.

Looking ahead….Cron certainly has more power in that 235 pound frame than he let on in 2013, and the home run totals should return in 2013. The major question for him is whether or not he will ever walk, and his future in the big leagues depends on it. Players with 4% walk rates rarely make it as major league regulars, and they all but never make it as middle of the order.

Stock: Down

#46 – Addison Russell, shortstop, Oakland Athletics

Height/Weight: 6’0″, 185

Born: January 23, 1994 (age 19)

2013 Stats (A+ Stockton): .277/.377/.508, 17 HR, 60 RBI, 21 SB, 61 BB,  116 SO, 107 G (504 PA)

Heading into 2013…Russel was a 2012 high school first round pick who instantly made GM’s rethink their selections when he hit a ridiculous .369/.432/.594 in his first professional half season. He was clearly more advanced with the bat than most prep shortstops, and the Athletics would promote him accordingly.

Now that the 2013 season is over… Russel didn’t quite replicate his 2012 (who could?), but he was brilliant nonetheless. Working as the youngest player in the entire league, Russel led all shortstops with 17 home runs while also getting on base at a high rate (.377 OBP despite “only” .277 batting average) for a shortstop. He impressed Oakland management enough that they sent him for a nine game stint in AAA at the end of the year.

Looking ahead…GM Billy Beane has stated that Russel will start next season  and that from there, “anything can happen,” implying he could make the majors as soon as this summer. Russel may have shift over to third at the show (although that spot in the Coliseum is currently firmly occupied), but he’ll be an impact bat regardless of position.

Stock: Up

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