Long after the concession stands closed, loyal fans still populated the seats of Angel Stadium, eager to see the 1-1 tie broken. It was Tuesday night, and the American League West powerhouse Oakland Athletics were in town. Finally, in the bottom of the fourteenth inning, Los Angeles Angel outfielder Collin Cowgill blasted a home run into the left field bullpen, securing a series victory. Moments like this have made Cowgill the most surprising player on the roster this season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Cowgill, a University of Kentucky product, in 2008. He was called up in 2011 and traded to the Oakland Athletics at season’s end. After one season in the Bay, Cowgill joined the New York Mets, who sent him to Triple-A before sending him to Anaheim.
He made his first appearance at Angel Stadium last season when former outfielder Peter Bourjos was placed on the Disabled List. Cowgill’s role remained small until the final cuts prior to the start of this season. Mike Scioscia chose to send JB Shuck to the Minor Leagues and keep Cowgill on the roster as a backup outfielder. When Kole Calhoun got injured, Cowgill got the starting nod in right field against left-handed pitchers. Since then, he has played all three outfield positions and performed well at each. He has become a greater asset than the Angels perhaps imagined when they acquired him last year.
Offensively, Cowgill has been a big contributor, collecting forty-three hits in fifty-six games. He is currently batting .297 with a .374 on base percentage. His speed, combined with his ability to get on base ,has given the Angels a spark during offensive slumps. Unlike sluggers Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, Cowgill strives to reach first base, not to hit one out of the park. Despite this, he has five home runs this season, including Tuesday’s game-winner.
Perhaps the most surprising characteristic that Cowgill has displayed this season has been his consistency. His campaign with the New York Mets was disappointing and short-lived. After a productive spring training in 2013, Cowgill became the starting center fielder. He struggled when the season started, and he lost his everyday center fielder distinction. When he was sent down to Triple-A, he was batting .180 with a .206 on base percentage.
When Cowgill became a member of the Angels organization, it seemed unlikely that he would receive a significant amount of playing time. The Angels typically have depth in the outfield, but those positions became thinner when Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos were traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. Injuries to Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun at the start of this season gave Cowgill the opportunity to make an impact. He immediately took advantage of the situation and put on solid offensive and defensive performances. His smooth entrance into the lineup made it seem as though he had appeared out of thin air, but his consistency at the plate and on the field are what have made him the most surprising Angel so far this season.