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Is There Any Way Cowgill Makes This Team?

February 24, 2012

Today we recorded a new episode of TarpTalk: An Oakland A’s Podcast that is yet to be published (and never will be as the recording failed to work), and we discussed things to watch for in Spring Training and one of my co-hosts David Wiers, suggested Collin Cowgill snagging a spot in the outfield. I really didn’t see anyway that could happen, whereas he thought it was plausible and that ultimately he was a better ballplayer than Josh Reddick, seeing Cowgill winning right field from him.

The A’s outfield situation is complicated to say the least, but my view is that Josh Reddick will be the starting right fielder. First off, a lot of this is dependent upon Yoenis Cespedes who as of today is still not yet officially a member of the A’s having no visa to work in the United States, having not yet taken a physical, having not yet due to those two reasons been added to the 40-man roster. Assuming that all is completed in the very near future, the A’s outfield depth chart in my mind has Cespedes, along with Coco Crisp, Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith and Reddick ahead of Cowgill. I see the A’s wanting a return on investment immediately at the turnstiles from Cespedes, they’ve already rocked the boat by suggesting publicly that Crisp will be moving to left field, and in my mind there is no way guys who are earning more than $1M as Crisp, Gomes and Smith are are anywhere but on the MLB roster this year. That doesn’t mean Cowgill is bad, it just means he is squeezed out of a roster spot barring injury. If Cespedes does indeed start outside of Oakland, I see Cowgill being this club’s fifth outfielder no questions asked at this point.

But my colleague sees things differently, he sees Cowgill making it regardless of Cespedes’ standing on this team. He sees Cowgill as better than Reddick and therefore as the A’s starting right-fielder. I think this is wrong for several reasons. Even if we accept Cowgill as better than Reddick, I think Smith is better than both of them and with 155 career games in right field I think Smith becomes your starting (if not platoon) right fielder, which conceivably then Cowgill could take the other side of the platoon, though that would be Cowgill of zero games at right field in his career – though in the minors he does have 122 games in right. But the real meat of the question is head-to-head is Reddick better than Cowgill?

Cowgill is one year older than Reddick, though Reddick at 143 career games and 403 plate appearances has more experience than the 37 game, 100 plate appearance career of Cowgill. During both of their limited time at MLB ball, Reddick wins out with a .248/.290/.416 slash line, .304 wOBA and 82 wRC+ to Cowgill’s inferior, .239/.300/.304 slash line, .270 wOBA and 60 wRC+. In the minors things are a bit different, the power difference isn’t as pronounced, Reddick owns a .222 ISO in 2,003 plate appearances to Cowgill’s .190 in 1,619. The real big difference lies in OBP where Cowgill has a .383 mark to Reddick’s .332. That is a real difference. The other numbers, we need to take with a grain of salt for Cowgill.

Reddick being in the Red Sox system made his way through the minors with stops in Greenville, South Carolina; Portland, Maine; Lancaster, California and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Aside from Lancaster in the high desert north of Los Angeles, the places where Reddick played were pretty average as per the three-year weighted park multipliers from Baseball Think Factory. The experience in eh minors of Cowgill, coming up in the Diamondbacks system was quite different, as he stopped in Yakima, Washington; South Bend, Indiana; Visalia, California; Mobile, Alabama and Reno, Nevada. Cowgill thrived at the stops where the environment benefited his hitting (basically everywhere but South Bend), which he should do, but that is where we see some crazy numbers come to Cowgill’s rescue a .353 BABIP in South Bend (despite that he managed just a .249 batting average), a .325 BABIP in Visalia, and a .397 BABIP in Reno – wholly unsustainable numbers despite Cowgill having plus speed. Meanwhile Reddick had BABIPs that we consistently more inline with reality and even worse than that, like his .207 BABIP in 2011 in Pawtucket than brought his average down to .230. Yet while Reddick’s average stays in line with his BABIP, Cowgill’s fluctuates wildly, just as his .333 BABIP yet anemic .239 batting average would attest with the Diamondbacks last year.

I don’t really see much evidence that Cowgill is the better hitter. You can argue they are comparable. Cowgill is better at getting on base and I do value that greatly. But Cowgill has benefited greatly from playing in some great hitting environments something that the Coliseum most certainly is not. If I were picking a winner, I’d put my money on Reddick.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2012 5:28 am

    I’m with you. I think it’s clear the organization values Reddick over Cowgill. I don’t think that means Cowgill can’t make the roster though. In my interview with him this week, Billy Beane seemed to intimate that, as a right-handed hitter, Cowgill could be particularly useful. Imagine this – Cespedes, Crisp and Reddick as the starting outfield. Smith and Gomes primarily covering the DH spot – with Cowgill occasionally filling in for Reddick against lefties and giving Crisp and Cespedes an occasional break too. I could see that making sense. But I think Reddick will definitely be given the first shot at claiming a starting role over Cowgill.

    • February 24, 2012 10:54 am

      Thanks for reading, I like your stuff and enjoyed your interview. I see your outfield/DH lineup as something conceivable, but if there are extra DH spots on the lineup to go around I just don’t see how out-of-options Brandon Allen or Kila Ka’aiahue don’t end up with one of them which again takes away a spot from Cowgill. I like Cowgill, just think that Reddick is the superior talent and he has been squeezed out of a spot. The thing is injuries can upend everything so quickly. But to me if everyone stays healthy Cowgill’s spot is dependent upon Cespedes’ readiness. I guess I’d be surprised if DH was just Smith and Gomes locking out all of the Allen, Carter, Ka’aihue crowd.

      • February 24, 2012 5:03 pm

        Yeah, the Allen/Ka’aihue out-of-options situation will definitely weigh on things. But I think there’s a good chance one of them will likely be dealt before the end of spring training, and the other one may end up at 1B. I also think there’s a chance the A’s could use Barton’s injury as an excuse to have him start the season at Sacramento, since he still has options left. That way they can take a look at someone else and still have Barton in reserve. As for Carter, as much as many A’s fans might like to see him, it just doesn’t seem like the organization has any enthusiasm for giving him a shot this season. I think they really like Cowgill though and will try to find a way, if possible, to squeeze him on to the roster – but not ahead of Reddick.

      • February 24, 2012 8:02 pm

        We can only wait and see. Though I too think that Barton is destined to have an option used on him. I think a trade is imminent one way or another but I think it comes in mid-April or so. Carter certainly seems to have worn out his welcome despite many of the projections liking him more than most of the A’s hitters.

  2. March 1, 2012 1:05 pm

    I think all the StarCraft and soccer is rotting Wiers’s brain.

    • March 1, 2012 2:43 pm

      I don’t know what that guy is thinking sometimes. Love him, but… ?

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