Cowart looks to stick in bigs with versatility, improved bat

Cowart looks to stick in bigs with versatility, improved bat

ANAHEIM -- At this point last year, it looked like Angels third baseman Kaleb Cowart's chances of making the big leagues were dwindling.

Now, he sits in a Major League clubhouse in the midst of his second stint, looking to make a strong impression and stick.

Cowart, the Angels' first-round selection with the 18th overall pick in the 2010 Draft, had been stagnant early in his career. After rocketing his way through the team's Minor League system to earn an extended stay at Major League camp in Spring Training before the '13 season, he lost his way.

His struggles through the next two seasons would be well-documented, culminating in his demotion to Class A Advanced Inland Empire to start the '15 season. A couple months later, he rediscovered his swing, jumping all the way up to Triple-A Salt Lake and then getting his first big league callup on Aug. 18 against the White Sox.

He didn't make a splash, hitting .174/.255/.283 in 34 games in the Majors to round out the season. But the impact was still felt on him.

After hitting .303/.352/.454 in 39 games in Triple-A to start this season, Cowart got his next chance in the Majors. While finding at-bats for him may be difficult with everyday third baseman Yunel Escobar already entrenched, he'll be able to contribute another way -- with his versatility. He can play his natural position, third base, but has also seen time at shortstop and first base.

He earned his first start of '16 on Sunday, showing his versatility at first base and moving over to third when Escobar sustained a left wrist contusion.

While his versatility stands out, Cowart said he knows it will be his newfound swing that'll keep him in the big leagues. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he likes what he's seen out of Cowart.

"He's figured some things out," Scioscia said this week. "The ball's definitely coming off of his bat hotter, and I think he's made strides to be more of an offensive player."

Scioscia said he's high on Cowart's promise, saying he has the tools to stick in the Majors for good soon. Cowart is currently ranked fifth among Angels prospects, according to MLBPipline.com.

"He can be an everyday third baseman in the big leagues," Scioscia said. "He can pick it at third base, and if his bat continues to grow as much as it's grown in the last couple years, he's got a chance to be an everyday third baseman. I think that's his upside first and foremost."

Cowart said his extended stay in the Majors last year gave him some insight into big league pitching, noting the extra movement on each pitch and pressure given to each at-bat. He slugged his first hit, a single to left, in his start Sunday and said he's starting to adjust.

"It feels better," Cowart said. "Those first couple at-bats are always an adjustment, but it felt good. I've swung at a couple pitches that I shouldn't have, but otherwise I feel like I've had some pretty good at-bats."

Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.