Houston Astros pitching prospect Jarred Cosart is the type of athlete that can easily turn the heads of scouts and observers.
At Clear Creek High School in Texas, Cosart was an exceptionally good hitter and outfielder, as well as a power pitcher. In fact, he batted .580, breaking a school record set by former Seattle Mariners star Jay Buhner. Cosart could also throw a baseball 95 to 96 mph, a feat not many high school pitchers can accomplish. He had scouts buzzing.
Initially, Cosart had intended to pitch collegiately. That changed when he signed a professional contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, who had selected him in the 38th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Cosart pitched briefly for the Phils' rookie team in the Gulf Coast League, posting a 2-2 record with an ERA of 2.22 in 24 1/3 innings of work. He started five of the seven games in which he pitched. Cosart walked only seven while striking out 25.
In 2010, Cosart was having a very fine season when elbow issues sidelined him at Class A Lakewood. He threw only 71 1/3 innings, while spending the second half of the season in rehabilitation strengthening his elbow.
My first look at Cosart came in the 2011 Futures Game in Phoenix. He threw one inning, retiring the side in order. I remember watching Cosart's fastball darting at 97 and 98 mph followed by a 76 mph "swing-and-miss" curve ball. He struck out two hitters with good command and got the win in the game. I put a star next to Cosart's name in my scorebook.
At the end of July that year, the Phillies had an opportunity to add Hunter Pence to their club in a deal with the Astros. The Phils traded the contracts of first baseman/outfielder Jonathan Singleton, right-handed pitcher Josh Zeid and outfielder Domingo Santana, along with Cosart, to Houston.
The trade has provided quality "building block" talent to the Astros. The current selection of right-handed pitcher Mark Appel in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft helps solidify the pitching foundation for the future. Cosart and Appel may well be an integral duo in the Astros' future rotation.
The right-handed Cosart is still only 23. He is in his fifth Minor League season and is making significant progress. This may be Cosart's best season so far.
Pitching for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League, Cosart has a 5-2 record with a 3.07 ERA. He has pitched in 12 games, starting 11. Cosart has yielded only 45 hits in 58 2/3 innings. He has walked 34 and struck out 63. His WHIP is 1.35.
My most recent opportunity to scout Cosart came this past fall in the Arizona Fall League. He threw 18 innings for Mesa, giving up 19 runs and pitching to a 6.50 ERA. The opposition hit .313 against Cosart, walking nine times.
I believe I was watching a very tired young pitcher. What I did see was a very lively power arm with two significant pitches. Cosart threw a high-velocity fastball and a very sharp, crisp curve. He went right after hitters. There was no nonsense.
Cosart has the ability to get great sink on his fastball. His four-seamer is tough to hit at 96 mph with movement and life. Cosart also throws a 97 sinker. That's the pitch hitters pound into the ground with frequency.
Cosart's curve arrives at about 78 mph. It's his second-most frequently-used pitch -- even more so than the sinker. Cosart uses that pitch to get swings and misses. It's often the pitch he deploys to finish off the hitter.
Finally, Cosart's changeup is a pitch that has less movement than it does less velocity. The 12 mph speed differential changes the balance of the batter.
Given Cosart's repertoire and solid arm, it is his delivery that he must harness to achieve his potential.
Cosart's mechanics have not always been smooth or "clean." He uses maximum effort with lots of moving parts, and some herks and some jerks. Cosart's release point often differs from pitch to pitch. That causes inconsistent arm action and ultimately, differing landing spots. Excessive movement prior to his release causes the ball to sail out of the strike zone. Hitters get a good look at the ball coming out of Cosart's hand.
While that sounds like a pitcher with major flaws, Cosart has such a good arm with such positive life on his pitches that he can overcome delivery issues. He has the talent to control a bit of the excess, while using his exceptionally quick release to close out hitters.
Cosart's current performance at Triple-A indicates he is getting past some of the rough spots in his mechanics. That comes with repetition, instruction and experience -- as well as a desire to improve.
Cosart has upside as either a starter or reliever. Because he has two strong fastballs and that sharp breaking curve, I still like him best as part of a starting rotation.
I believe Cosart will be the type of pitcher that improves as the game progresses. He will gain confidence as he goes along and take advantage of any holes in the hitter's swing.
Because he is a power pitcher in the truest sense, I believe Cosart's pitch counts may be high. Hitters will foul balls off, and he will throw his share of balls along with strikes. But Cosart's arm is so strong, he will not wilt under the weight of a hefty pitch count.
Cosart is showing an ability to clean up the rough edges of his delivery and ultimately improve his command. The result will be a quality pitcher that can be counted upon to provide solid innings on the mound and keep his team in the game.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.