Cowser, Norby visit OPACY as draftees sign

July 25th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- It was just a few weeks before Friday when Colton Cowser, then one of the country’s top collegiate outfielders, first stepped foot inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This was July 8, at a private workout three days before the 2021 Draft, which Cowser traveled from his Cypress, Texas, home to attend, then impressed officials enough to convince them to target him with the fifth overall pick. Upon making the selection on Draft night, Orioles executive vice president Mike Elias phoned Cowser to inform him of the news before it went public.

“Did you fly all the way back to Texas?” Elias asked. “Mind flying back?"

Fast forward to Friday, when Cowser returned for another of what the Orioles hope will be many, many looks of the inside of the historic ballpark. Touring the facilities alongside second-round pick Connor Norby, Cowser took on-field batting practice with the big league Orioles, met the local media and even received some introductory advice from Jim Palmer.

“It’s really exciting,” Cowser said. “When I really get to work, that’s when it’ll settle in.”

Said Norby: “It’s a lot of excitement. It’s been hectic, the last few weeks. It’s an honor to be here.”

The Orioles had little trouble locking in either Cowser or Norby, who both signed underslot deals within a day of each other shortly after the Draft concluded. The plan going forward is for both to spend brief stints training at the club’s Sarasota, Fla., complex, before debuting in the Florida Complex League and, before summer’s end, Low-A Delmarva. Both spent Wednesday and Thursday getting acclimated at the Sarasota complex before flying to Baltimore. 

Friday then provided the opportunity for both to reflect on the past few weeks and get a taste of what’s to come. A left-handed-hitting center fielder, Cowser made a name for himself as one of the country’s top all-around hitters during a decorated career at Sam Houston State, hitting to a .374/.490/.680 slash line with 16 home runs and more walks (42) than strikeouts (32) as a junior this spring. Norby led the country in hits at East Carolina as a right-handed-hitting second baseman.  

“You can always improve in everything, and that’s something I’m looking to do, to improve each tool that I have,” said Cowser. “Power is something I’m looking to improve as well.” 

“I bring a lot of fire,” said Norby. “I play hard all the time. I can do anything. I consider myself a jack-of-all-trades. I want to be good at everything.”

Draft signings
The Orioles have signed 20 of their 21 selections from the 2021 Draft, after rattling off a slew of signings this weekend. Their one remaining unsigned draftee is 14th-round right-hander Daniel Lloyd.

• First-round OF Cowser ($4.9 million bonus, per MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis)
• Second-round 2B Norby ($1.7 million, per Callis)
• Supplemental second-round OF Reed Trimble ($800K bonus, per Callis)
• Third-round OF John Rhodes ($1.375 million, per Callis)
• Fourth-round OF Donta’ Williams ($400K bonus, per MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo)
• Fifth-round RHP Carlos Tavera ($375K, per Callis)
• Sixth-round INF Collin Burns ($375K, per source)
• Seventh-round C Connor Pavolony ($325K, per source)
• Eighth-round C Creed Willems ($1 million, per source)
• Ninth-round INF Ryan Higgins ($159,700 bonus, per Callis)
• 10th-round OF Billy Cook ($100K bonus, per Mayo)
• 11th-round RHP Dylan Heid
• 12th-round RHP Justin Armbruester
• 13th-round INF Jacob Teter
• 15th-round RHP Keagan Gillies
• 16th-round RHP Peter Van Loon
• 17th-round RHP Ryan Long
• 18th-round RHP Conor Grady
• 19th-round RHP Alex Pham
• 20th-round OF Trendon Craig ($250K bonus, per source)

All told, the Orioles have signed five players to over-slot deals: third-round outfielder Rhodes ($556.8K over slot), sixth-round infielder Burns ($71K over slot), seventh-round catcher Pavolony ($88K over slot), eighth-round high school catcher Willems ($812.3K over slot) and 20th-round junior college outfielder Craig ($125K over slot). The Orioles’ biggest savings came on Cowser, who signed for $1.28 million below slot value. They saved $1.754 million total on four of their first five picks, all college bats, and used $1.653 million of that so far on other picks.

The deadline to sign 2021 Draftees is Aug. 1.

Worth noting
Some celebrity appearances are on deck at Oriole Park. Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday’s series finale with the Nationals. Then, before Wednesday’s game against the Marlins, Sonsy Gaba, Mo Gaba’s mother, will throw out the first pitch on the first anniversary of her son’s passing. Gaba, a Baltimore sports superfan, was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame upon his death last summer.