Chris Owings – First Round – No. 45 Overall
By Dan Strittmatter
The D-backs continued two of their early trends with their fourth pick of the 2009 draft. First, the team kept their focus on pursuing bats, with Owings, a shortstop, following two third basemen in Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson, and center fielder A.J. Pollock.
Second, the team aggressively went for higher-upside high school choices; the only one of those four players to come out of college was Pollock, from Notre Dame.
Owings was taken No. 41 overall out of Gilbert High School in Leesville, S.C., and the D-backs had to be aggressive in signing him to convince him to turn pro rather than play in college. Owings projects to hit for a good average with a little pop, and has some speed on the bases as well.
After being signed, Owings pretty accurately fit that scouting report at Rookie-level Missoula in his first experience in pro ball.
For the Osprey’s playoff run late in the summer of 2009, Owings hit .306 with a .426 slugging percentage and three stolen bases (he was not caught stealing) in 24 games. Just three walks in 108 at-bats limited his OBP to .324, and further, Owings was victim to strikeouts quite often, getting rung up 25 times. It also appears that the team intends to give him every chance to succeed at shortstop, much like they’re giving similar chances for Davidson and Borchering to play third base (though many have projected those two as first basemen).
So far in 2010 for Low-A South Bend, Owings has put together a very similar line, with a .288/.308/.414 BA/OBP/SLG line for .722 OPS. Owings’ season hasn’t been flawless, as he still is battling a pretty unsightly K:BB ratio of 39:5. That’s not an uncommon trend for high school draftees in their first full season, though, and if put in proper perspective looks very impressive.
His OPS is substantially higher than the league-average in 2010 for the pitcher-friendly Midwest League, which is just .688. Further, the average age of pitchers in the MWL (as weighted by Baseball-Reference.com) is 21.7 years. Owings, meanwhile, won’t turn 19 until Aug. 12.
For a player to succeed in his age-18 season in a full-season affiliate, the D-backs have to be quite happy with what they’ve seen from Owings.