Josh Stowers | OF
Stowers, 22 next month, grew up outside Chicago in Westchester, Illinois. He hit .352/.463/.508 with two home runs as a senior at Mount Caramel High School and Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 490th best prospect in the 2015 draft class. Despite that, Stowers went undrafted out of high school and instead followed through on his commitment to the University of Louisville. (Stowers, by the way, rhymes with “lowers,” not “flowers.”)
Louisville has become a baseball powerhouse, so only the very best of the best get to play as freshmen. Stowers appeared in 20 games and received only 15 plate appearances as a first year player, going 3-for-13 (.231) with two steals. A summer ball stint with the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League went much better. Stowers hit .311/.373/.400 with three homers in 39 games that summer.
As a sophomore Stowers moved into an everyday role with the Cardinals and put up a .313/.422/.507 batting line with six homers and 22 steals in 65 games. That includes going 4-for-11 (.364) with a double in three College World Series games before Louisville was eliminated. Stowers suited up for the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod League that summer and struggled, hitting .250/.337/.345 with two homers and 12 steals in 24 games.
Stowers barely played as a freshman and hit near the bottom of the lineup as a sophomore. As a junior he moved to the top of the order and hit .336/.477/.559 with nine homers, 36 steals, and more walks (52) than strikeouts (37). Baseball America (subs. req’d) and MLB.com ranked Stowers as the 124th and 146th best prospect in the 2018 draft class, respectively. Keith Law (subs. req’d) did not rank him among his top 100 draft prospects.
The Mariners selected Stowers with their second round pick, the 54th overall selection, in last June’s draft and signed him to a slightly below-slot $1.1M bonus. (Slot money for the 54th overall pick was $1.2878M.) The Yankees acquired Stowers from Seattle in the three-team Sonny Gray trade with the Reds on January 21st, 2019.
After signing, the Mariners sent Stowers to their short season affiliate in the Northwest League. (Their equivalent to Short Season Staten Island.) Stowers hit .260/.380/.410 (126 wRC+) with five homers, 20 steals, 15.2% walks, and 23.4% strikeouts in 58 games in his pro debut. Baseball America (subs. req’d) named him the 12th best prospect in the league after the season.
With a thick lower half and a 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, Stowers doesn’t look like the prototypical center fielder. He is a well-above-average runner (his speed is his best tool) and his speed serves him well defensively, but his reads and routes need to improve to remain in center long-term. Stowers has a below-average arm, so if he can’t hack it in center field, left field is the only other option. His arm won’t cut it in right.
Offensively, Stowers has the rare pretty right-handed swing. It’s direct to the ball and allows him to spray line drives from pole to pole, but he doesn’t generate much loft, so Stowers only projects to have average power down the road. His plate discipline is razor sharp and he steals bases efficiently and in bulk. The long-term upside here is a good batting average with a high on-base percentage and lots of steals, but something short of 20 homers.
Stowers is definitely ready for full season ball after three years at a major college program, two summers in top collegiate leagues, and a strong pro debut in short season ball. I think it’s more likely he’ll start the season with Low-A Charleston and get promoted to High-A Tampa at midseason than start the season in Tampa. If he does start the year in Tampa, Stowers would presumably join Estevan Florial and Pablo Olivares in a fun little outfield unit.
Everything I know about Stowers is in this post and he hasn’t been in the system long enough for me to form an opinion about him. Consider my take TBD. Because he’s fast and a good athlete, I think Stowers stands a pretty good chance to remain in center field, or at least I think he has a better chance to improve his defense and remain in center than add power. Stowers and Shed Long, the prospect the Yankees acquired from the Reds for Gray then flipped to the Mariners for Stowers, will forever be connected. Comparing the two is unfair — they are at very different points of their careers — but inevitable. My preference would’ve been keeping the upper level infielder. Stowers is a quality prospect in his own right though.