Collin Cowgill was teammates with fellow Diamondbacks prospect Sean Coughlin at the University of Kentucky, where Brandon Webb used to pitch. There, Cowgill put up some terrific numbers, particularly in his junior season, when he hit .361, belted 19 homers, stole 23 bases, and had an 1.170 OPS.
Upon being selected in the fifth round of last year's draft, Cowgill performed even better at Yakima, crushing 11 home runs in just 20 games there before earning a promotion to the playoff-bound South Bend Silver Hawks. He did not fare as well there until the postseason, when he hit .300 with two home runs in 30 at-bats.
The Silver Hawks' playoff run ended abruptly. After being out-scored 18-0 in the first two games of the Midwest League Championship Series in Burlington, the remainder of the series was called due to cold and rain in South Bend. Just days later, Cowgill would begin working out in the Instructional League, where Field Coordinator Jack Howell would dub him the most valuable position player at Instructs.
FutureBacks.com subscribers can of this interview.
FutureBacks: Let me take you back all the way to when you were mashing home runs at Yakima. You got the call to be promoted to South Bend.
Collin Cowgill: Right...
FB: Were you thinking at all, "Gosh, if I stayed here for the rest of the season, I could be the Northwest League single season home run leader?"
CC: Not really. Just like everybody else, you want to make the move as fast as you can. So when I got the call, I was just fired up to be switching levels. But I tried to start off as hot as I was at Yakima.
FB: So what was the difference between the pitching you faced there and the pitching you faced in the Midwest League?
CC: Pitching wasn't that different. Obviously, I didn't have anywhere near the success that I had in Yakima at South Bend. I just think what a real big difference was the command of the second pitch - the curveball, the slider - all that was a lot better. Really, the same kind of arm strength: fastball velocity not much different. Like I said, I think the pitchers' ability to command a little better was the biggest difference I saw out there.
FB: Well it seemed like you made an adjustment maybe in late August, when you started to hit well then and throughout the playoffs. What was that?
CC: When I first got out there, I guess I was trying to do too much at the plate. My swing got a little long. I guess I was really pressing quite a bit. I hit a bunch of home runs at Yakima; I thought I had to come out and do the same thing at South Bend. I kinda was in my own head, and when my swing got long, I just told myself to relax, and have fun playing the game like I was out there in Rookie-Ball. So I think it was kinda getting myself out of my own way, taking a deep breath, relaxing, and playing the game a little bit more. Stop pressing - I think that really helped. Just the mental approach I had wasn't the same as it was in Yakima.
FB: You really don't have a traditional power hitter's build. What is it about your swing that generates so much power?
CC: I don't know. People ask me that a lot, and I really don't know. My coach in college always told me that I swing too hard. I don't know if it has anything to do with the way the ball comes off my bat. I really couldn't tell you. I guess I just have the ability to hit it with power for a little guy. I'm not real sure where it comes from, but I hope it doesn't go anywhere!
FB: Because you can hit for power and can run, and can do a lot of different things, you've hit in a lot of different spots in the batting order. Where do you see yourself as the best fit, and where are you the most comfortable in the batting order?
CC: I really like the two-spot. In college, pro ball, and high school - every level I've played at - I've felt the most comfortable hitting in the two-hole. I don't know where I'll be this summer, I don't know where I'll be for the rest of my career, but If I could pick one, it would definitely be hitting second. That's where I'm most comfortable. I don't really have any reason. I've just had more success there than anywhere else.
FB: Does your approach change when you get moved around or do you take it pretty much the same either way?
CC: It does a little bit. In the second spot, you don't have to be the power guy in the lineup. You're really more of a second leadoff hitter. You want to get on base for those big guys behind you who are there to hit the home runs and get the RBIs. Small guys, more like a second leadoff hitter - I guess in my case, who can hit the ball with some power - but not as much as the 3-4 guys are going to be behind you, especially the higher up you go. I think just getting on base and getting hits - not as much hitting for power in the two-hole, so I'm more comfortable. I don't have to do as much as if I were in the three-or-four-hole, if that makes sense.
In part two of the interview (subscribers-only), Collin discusses the makeup of that playoff-bound Silver Hawks team, the abrupt end to the Silver Hawks' playoff run, his friendship with fellow Kentucky Wildcat Sean Coughlin, his time in the Instructional League, and his goals heading into his first spring training as a professional.