The 2014 season was a season that most Boston Red Sox fans would love to erase from their memory bank. The team went from World Series champions in 2013 to basement dwellers facing uncertainty heading into 2015. But at the same time, 2014 was a year we saw many young Red Sox prospects make their debut at the major league level. Prospects like OF/2B Mookie Betts, SP Anthony Ranuando, INF Gabin and C Christian Vazquez while you had players like C Blake Swihart, SS Deven Marrero, and SP Henry Owens working up the rankings and into the Triple-A level.
Now as we get closer to the start of 2015, let us take a look at some of the top prospects within the Red Sox farm system. First up is the southpaw phenom that has gotten everybody's attention: Henry Owens.
Date of Birth: July 21, 1992
Place of Birth: Huntington Beach, CA
School: Edison High School, CA
Drafted: 2011 MLB Supplemental First Round (36th Overall) by Boston Red Sox
Background Prior to 2014
Owens first played professional baseball in 2012 with the Greenville Drive, the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. In 23 games with the Drive, Owens started 22, recorded a 12-5 record with a 4.87 ERA in 101.2 innings pitched. He allowed 100 hits, 58 runs (55 were earned), walked 47 batters, struck out 130 more, held batters to a .256 average, and had a WHIP of 1.446. He was also named to the Boston Red Sox 2012 MiLB.com Organization All-Star Team.
In 2013, Owens began the season in Advanced-A with the Salem Red Sox. In 20 games with the Salem squad, he started all 20 to go 8-5 with a 2.92 ERA. Owens also allowed recorded 123 strikeouts, walked 53 batters, and had a WHIP of 1.137. He then received the call up to Double-A to pitch for the Portland Sea Dogs on August 1 where he finished in for the 2013 season. He pitched in 6 games with the Sea Dogs (starting all of them) to go 3-1 with an ERA of 1.78, recorded 46 strikeouts, 15 walks, and had a WHIP of 1.088.
Owens’ combined numbers for 2013 were 26 games pitched with 26 starts, a 15-4 record with a 2.47 ERA, 127.2 innings pitched, 84 hits allowed, 47 runs (40 were earned), 68 walks allowed, 169 strikeouts, a WHIP of 1.126, and opponents batted .177 against him at both Advanced-A and Double-A. He was voted to his second MiLB Organization All-Star Team as well as voted as the Boston Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year and was a Mid-Season All-Star in the Carolina League.
At the beginning of the 2014 season, Henry Owens was named the No. 2 prospect overall in the Red Sox farm system according to Baseball America and MLB.com and the No. 3 prospect overall according to SoxProspects.com. He was invited to spring training down at Ft. Myers, Florida, with the Boston Red Sox before being sent to Double-A Portland to start the 2014 regular season.
In 20 game appearances with the Sea Dogs, Owens started all 20 games to go 14-4 with 2.60 in 121 innings pitched. During those games, he allowed 89 hits, 36 runs (35 were earned), walked 47 batters, struck out 126, had a WHIP of 1.124, and held the opposition to a batting average of .201. Owens was named to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star team as well as to the 2014 Futures Game All-Star Team for Team USA.
Then on August 1, Owens was promoted to Triple-A to pitch for the Pawtucket Red Sox. His first start in a PawSox uniform was on August 4 against the Columbus Clippers. In his PawSox debut, Owens pitched in 6.2 innings, giving up just 2 hits, 3 walks, struck out 9 batters, threw 100 pitches (70 for strikes) and picked up the win in a 5-0 shutout. He ended up finishing the year in Pawtucket, going 3-1 in 6 starts with a 4.03 ERA, striking out 44 batters while walking 12, and had a WHIP of 1.158. He also pitched two games in the postseason during the PawSox’ Governors Cup run, including Game 3 of the Governors’ Cup against the Durham Bulls. Owens ended up going 0-1 in two postseason starts with 11 total strikeouts, 6 walks, an ERA of 9.00, and a WHIP of 2.13.
For his final 2014 numbers, Owens went 17-5 in 26 games with 26 starts, pitched in 159.0 innings, gave up 53 runs (52 earned), walked 59 batters, struck out 170, had a WHIP of 1.13, and held batters to a .208 batting average. He was named Pitcher of the Year and a Post-Season All-Star in the Eastern League Double-A and was named to the Baseball America Minor League All-Star Team with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Going into the 2015 season, Owens will start off in the Pawtucket Triple-A level. He was listed as the #2 prospect overall in the Red Sox farm system according to MLB.com, Baseball America, and Soxsprospects.com behind only C Blake Swihart. Owens was invited to Red Sox spring training down in Ft. Myers for the second year in a row.
This guy is the real deal. He can pitch, no doubt about it. I heard rumors of a dominate southpaw within the Red Sox farm system at the Portland AA level. Then when came up to McCoy Stadium, yours truly had to get a front row seat. What I saw blew my mind away and convinced me that Owens was the future of the Red Sox staff. He has three pitches: a fastball, a change-up, and a curveball.
The fastball can range from 88-91 mph consistently but can go up to 94 mph whenever necessary. It can also jam up batters to the point where even if they make contact, the end result tends to be just a weak ground ball that can be easily fielded. Next is the changeup, a pitch that dips in between 76-79 mph but the delivery of it is the same as his fastball, which can throw off the batter and those watching. Finally is the curveball, which he can change its speed depending on how far he can throw (68-72 mph soft and 72-74 mph hard). Personally, I thought his curveball was more devastating than his changeup because of the pinpoint accuracy he had when throwing at the bottom corners of the strike zone. Plus he’s very tall young man (stands in at 6’6”), which adds even more to his throwing mechanics. Owens’ long arms allows him to release the ball at a more downward angle because of his height, which can add more to the balls velocity and can throw off a batter’s timing.
But what really surprised me was the one thing that a great athlete needs: a cool, calm head. When Owens made his debut at McCoy, the press box was packed to capacity by many media members who wanted to see him pitch. But after talking with the guy, you could get a sense that he just focused on his game mechanics and tuned out all the media hype and coverage that surrounded him. His coaches spoke highly of him while his teammates treated him with respect and also enjoyed his company.
Plus with reports that Owens openly admitted his main focus of the 2014 season was to tune the mechanics of his curveball, shows the work mentality of this young player. That he is focused on trying to improve his game rather than what kind of awards he wants to win.
I had stated in a 2014 prospect review that Owens and Anthony Ranuado would form a devastating 1-2 punch for the Red Sox rotation for many years to come. However Ranuado was dealt to the Texas Rangers earlier this year for a bullpen arm and now Owens’ name keeps coming up in trade rumors involving Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hammels.
If the Red Sox were serious about building a rotation, they should keep Owens. He is a cornerstone piece to build a rotation around. His stats are just as good, if not better than former Red Sox southpaw pitcher and World Series hero Jon Lester when he was in the minor leagues.
There will be growing pains when Owens makes that transition from Triple-A to the MLB level due to the increase of speed within the game. However that is to be expected. Owens has the mechanics and mentality of becoming a #1 pitcher on the Red Sox rotation. The only thing he needs is time to get used to the game.
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