Angels third-base prospect Kaleb Cowart, who struggled so much at double A in 2013 and 2014 that he abandoned switch-hitting and considered a move to the mound, was recalled from triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday and will bat ninth against the Chicago White Sox in Angel Stadium.
To make room for Cowart on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, third baseman Conor Gillaspie, who hit .228 with one home run and nine runs batted in in 17 games for the Angels but was shaky defensively, was designated for assignment.
A first-round pick out of a Georgia high school in 2010, Cowart had a monster year at Class A Cedar Rapids and Inland Empire in 2012, hitting a combined .276 with 16 homers, 31 doubles, seven triples and 103 RBIs in 135 games.
Three years out of high school, Cowart was one of the organization’s top prospects and was sent to double A. That didn’t go so well, Cowart hitting .221 with six homers, 42 RBIs and 124 strikeouts in 132 games in 2013 and .223 with six homers, 54 RBIs and 99 strikeouts in 126 games in 2014.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Cowart, who turned 23 in June, was not invited to big league camp this spring, and the Angels sent him to Inland Empire to start 2015. His career was going backward.
“He really struggled last year, and we wanted to put him in an environment where he could create some confidence,” farm director Bobby Scales said. “We thought putting him back in Inland Empire could kick-start his career. He could kind of hit the reset button.”
Cowart reverted to his old batting stance, moving his hands farther away from his body and standing in a more upright position, and that helped — Cowart hit .242 with two homers, 14 doubles, 23 RBIs, 43 strikeouts and 22 walks in 51 games, showing better plate discipline, if not power.
The promotions of third baseman Kyle Kubitza and first basemen C.J. Cron and Efren Navarro to the Angels created corner-infield vacancies at triple-A Salt Lake in June.
Scott Servais, assistant general manager in charge of player development, suggested the Angels promote Cowart, and the Angels sent him there with simple instructions: Just go hit. Don’t worry about your stance or mechanics.
Cowart did just that, batting .323 with a .395 on-base percentage, .491 slugging percentage, six homers, 13 doubles and 45 RBIs in 62 games at Salt Lake, striking out 64 times and walking 29 times in 220 at-bats. He also played some left field, shortstop and first base.
“There’s something about moving around the field that has freed him up a bit,” Scales said recently. “It seems like he’s in a good place. He’s repeating his swing over and over again and understanding what pitchers are trying to do with him. He really took it on the chin last year. I’m glad to see him have some success.”
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