Thursday, December 15, 2011
#18 Prospect - Rudy Owens
Owens throws both a 4-seam and 2-seam fastball. His 2-seam fastball is his best pitch and sits in the high 80's and low 90's. His 4-seam fastball comes in faster, sitting in the low 90's and touching the mid 90's occasionally. For secondary pitches, Owens throws an excellent changeup and a still developing, but adequate curveball. Without overpowering stuff, Owens relies on superb command of his pitches, especially his two fastballs.
Rudy Owens is a hard prospect to pin down. After 2008 Owens wouldn't have even sniffed a top 20 list. He had just finished putting up pedestrian numbers in short season ball as a 20 year old. That all changed in 2009 as Owens had a remarkable year, and that may be understating it. Pitching most of the year at Low-A West Virginia, Owens posted a minuscule 1.70 ERA over 19 starts. Perhaps even more impressively, Owens struck out 8.14 batters per 9 innings while only walking 1.34 batters per 9 innings while pitching at West Virginia. He concluded his season with a short stint in High-A ball where he held his own.
During the offseason, Owens was a controversial prospect. He certainly was coming off a breakout year, but with a less-than-stellar arsenal, pundits were content on seeing how Owens would fare in AA ball, where he would begin the 2010 season, before fully getting on the bandwagon. For example, John Sickels rated Rudy Owens at the 9th best prospect in the Pirates system, gave him a C+ grade, and said this, "Outstanding K/BB ratio. Was hittable after moving up to Lynchburg, though he maintained a good strikeout rate. Great command of decent stuff but need to see in Double-A." Other concerns existed with Rudy Owens as his 3.14 FIP contrasted with his 1.70 ERA at West Virginia. Owens also had gotten lucky in the BABIP and LOB% department, benefiting from .235 and 87.1% numbers respectively.
Owens did not disappoint in 2010 at AA Altoona. In 150 innings, over 26 starts, Owens posted a 2.46 ERA and 2.95 FIP. His K:BB ratios stayed strong, with 7.92 K/9 and 1.38 BB/9 rates. His BABIP and LOB% numbers normalized, so Owens success was pure performance and not a function of luck. Rudy Owens had arrived and experts began to take notice. Sickels now rated Owens 4th in the Pirates system. He stated, "Harder to be skeptical now with a strong Double-A season under his belt. Looks like a future number three starter" and gave Owens a B grade.
However, something funny happened when Rudy Owens finally made it to the top. For Owens, 23 and ready to begin pitching at AAA subsequent to a great year at AA, the future looked bright, but unfortunately he came crashing back down to earth in 2011. Owens started pitched 112.1 innings and had an ERA of 5.05 and more concerning his great K:BB ratios disappeared. In 112.1 starts Rudy Owens struck out only 5.69 batters while walking 2.56 every 9 innings. His FIP of 4.11 offers some hope, but overall it was a disappointing year.
Owens still has positives going for him. He will only turn 24 this month, and despite his fringy stuff, he has an adequate arsenal when combined with his command to be a mid-rotation starter. Despite that, 2011 was such a large bump in the road that it's hard to rank Owens higher than #18, at least in my book. Hopefully, next year he proves me wrong.