September 4, 2013
The Situation: Ranked as the Diamondbacks no. 3 prospect heading into the season, Owings will make his debut on the heels of a season in which he was named both the Pacific Coast League MVP and Rookie of the Year.
Background: Signed for $950,000 as a supplemental first-rounder in 2009, Owings made his professional debut as a 17-year old in the short-season Pioneer League. After hitting .306 in 24 games during his debut, Owings followed that up with a .298/.323/.447 showing in full-season ball in 2010. Heading to the high-octane environment of the California League in 2011, Owings was expected to post impressive numbers but struggled as he hit just .246 with 15 walks and 130 strikeouts in 121 games. He returned to the California League in 2012 and torched the circuit the second time through, posting a .324/.362/.544 line before being promoted to Double-A. While he hit just .263 with six home runs in 69 games at Double-A last season, Owings was promoted to Triple-A to start the 2013 campaign. In his first taste of the minor leagues’ highest level he hit .330 with 31 doubles and 12 home runs for Reno.
Scouting Report: Owings is a good bet to stick at shortstop long term as he displays the necessary chops to make it work on the left side. He has very good instincts and first-step quickness, allowing him to get good jumps on balls to both sides. He charges and throws well on the run. Owings’ hands are sound and he has the plus arm necessary to make all the throws from shortstop. With polish at the highest level, Owings could be an above-average defender overall.
On the other side of the ball, Owings offers plenty of skill and a strong overall profile from a premium position. He is an intelligent hitter who can match his approach to the game situation. He likes to swing the bat and will never be known for working counts and drawing walks, but given his natural hitting ability and power, he can still be an asset. Owings swings through quality breaking balls but he can barrel velocity and shows a keen ability to stay back on changeups and drive them to all fields. His offensive approach is likely to get him in trouble during his initial big league trials in 2013 and 2014, but once he settles in he’ll have the natural feel for hitting to post a .270-.275 average, and the pop to pound 25 doubles and 15 home runs. Combined with above-average speed and decent instincts that could lead to 20 steals annually, and Owings has an enticing offensive package for a quality defender up the middle.
Even as an intelligent player with good instincts, Owings’ adjustment period to the big leagues could be lengthy and there will likely be some bumps in the road. In the end, his overall offensive profile and projection for minimal on-base ability pegs him to hit in the bottom third of the order, but he should be a valuable everyday player over the long haul.
Immediate Big-League Future: With Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hill already up the middle, Owings is expected to just dip his toes in the big league waters this fall. He will likely get a chance to play both shortstop and second base on occasion and should get to show just enough to accentuate his offseason trade value or position himself for a run at the major-league roster in 2014. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: Owings’ power/speed potential has excited keeper league fantasy owners since he burst onto the scene as a prospect in 2011. Despite this, the contact issues Mark notes above pose a problem for Owings’ chances of getting into a big-league lineup, in both the short and long terms. Reno’s friendly Triple-A environment has artificially inflated the batting averages of more than a few prospects in the recent past, and Owings is no exception. I see the .270-.275 Mark notes above as a ceiling, but it’s worth noting that the floor is considerably lower. If Owings can stick in a big-league lineup, the power and speed would make him worth rostering in every format down the line.
How much opportunity Owings gets down the stretch likely depends on how much longer Arizona can hang on in the race. Their Wild Card hopes are marginal at best, but the Diamondbacks will likely remain in a contending stance until they are mathematically eliminated. Owings could pick up the odd start here and there, but the Diamondbacks are far more likely to go with Gregorius for at least the next couple of weeks. Looking forward, Owings should have a legitimate shot to wrestle the shortstop job away from Didi in 2014. If he can do that, the 15/20 HR/SB potential immediately puts Owings on the map. He is a high-risk/high-reward guy right out of the gate if he walks out of camp next spring with a job. —Mike Gianella
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ProspectMark