The lefty-starting power pitcher was recently named the 30th best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline last Thursday when they released their Top 100 Prospects list for 2014. Quite a jump for the Huntington Beach, California native. Owens entered 2013 as the 94th best prospect on their list.
Drafted in the first round by the Sox straight out of Edison High School as a sandwich pick in 2011, what did Owens do to draw such rave reviews last year? Striking out 169 in 135 innings is a good place to start.
Spending the bulk of his season with Salem of the advanced Single-A’s Carolina League, Owens won 11 and lost six in 26 starts. His last six were in Double-A Portland, where he dominated. Between the two cities, Owens posted an ERA of 2.67 and a WHIP of 1.126.
Breaking out his Portland numbers, Owens went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA, striking out an eye-popping 46 in 30.1 frames. The jump from full-season advanced Single-A to Double-A did not faze the kid a bit.
Control is the biggest concern of scouts now, who still slate him as a mid-rotation starter and not an ace. Between Salem and Portland, Owens walked 68 batters or 4.5 hitters-per-nine. You can get away with that wildness to a degree when you can strikeout 11.3 per-nine, you have to keep the ball in the yard.
Owens did that, surrendering nine in 2013 and a stingy 84 hits overall, the math says that is 5.6 hits-per-nine. Nolan Ryan’s name comes to mind with that stat line. Curt Schilling, in his younger days, does too. Some pretty nice company to keep.
A three-pitch pitcher, Owens throws a fastball, curve and change. Scouts grade his fastball and changeup a 60 on the 20-80 scale, earning an above-average grade. His curve, graded at 55, is slightly above average. His control is considered average at 50.
That fastball is not blazing, hitting the low-90s, but it is deceptive. Judging by his strikeout rates, he has no trouble getting lower minor league talent to look goofy swinging and missing. Big league hitters, however, are going to show more patience at bad pitches, waiting for him to throw the perfect strike and crush it.
Not expected to reach Fenway until 2015, fans in Portland are going to get a treat as they watch Owens mature as a player and pitcher, ready to take the last step of Triple-A Pawtucket and, eventually, Boston.
If Owens can figure out a better way to command his pitches, his strikeout and WHIP numbers suggest a pitcher who could be a sharp No. 2 or even a No. 1A, if everything falls into place.
2013 was a huge leap in that direction.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.
Photo: Greenfield Drive
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