Micah Owings was a capable pitcher, used as both a reliever and a starter. His career FIP of 4.95 with a 6.47 K/9IP isn’t going to wow anyone and is certainly below average, but it is good enough to make most rosters as a long reliever. However, those days seem behind him. Since the start of 2009, his FWAR -.5. He also had a 60 day DL stint this season with a forearm strain. Considered perhaps the best hitting pitcher in baseball, the Padres and Owings have decided to give Owings a shot at becoming a full time hitter in the big leagues.
So I watched all 9 of his AAA at-bats (over 6 games) in an attempt to see what we could expect from Owings as a position player.
The first thing you notice is that the guy is big. He looks like a first baseman. He is listed at 6-5 220, which is certainly 1st base/DH size.
June 5th: He pinch hit versus a lefty. The pitcher started Owings off with a fastball up high and outside for a ball. Then Owings swung at a low fastball and grounded out to shortstop (Tommy Fields made a great play to get Owings out, showing off impressive range).
June 7th: This was just a one pitch at-bat (and game, as he was a pinch hitter) that ended when a pitch on Owings’ hands was pulled by the 3rd baseman for a double.
June 8th: Owings started this game at first base and he faced now big leaguer Diamondback pitcher Trevor Bauer. After an Inside fastball, Bauer threw high breaking ball. Down 2-0, Bauer went low and in with a moving fastball that Owings pulled to left field on a line for a single. In his 2nd and final at-bat, he swung at a moving fastball inside and weakly grounded out to short.
June 12th: Faced left-hander (also in the big leagues now) Brett Cecil. In the first at-bat, he took 3 straight strikes for a strikeout. Cecil started with a fastball inside, a fastball down and in, then finished him with a backdoor cutter. In at-bat 2, Owings didn’t take any pitches, pulling a low fastball to left for a hit. At-bat 3 started with Owings getting fooled outside by breaking ball, unable to check his swing. Cecil then tried the same pitch but Owings took it. A backdoor cutter was taken for strike 2 before Owings hit a low breaking ball to shortstop for a ground-out.
June 14th: Facing Takashi Saito (right hander) as a pinch hitter. Owings took a high and outside fastball, then took one on the low and outside corner for a strike. At 1-1, he swung and missed at a breaking ball on the low part of zone. Saito then came back with a fastball down the middle for a big whiff and a strikeout.
June 16th: Facing left-hander Patrick Corbin (yet another big league pitcher). Corbin’s fastball was blown by Owings for a whiff, but a fastball in on his hands was pulled to left field on a line for a hit.
It looks like he can run okay, but he is certainly below average. Small sample size caveats probably apply, but he was given negative baserunning ratings each year by Fangraphs and had a Speed Score of just 3.5. Since he won’t have baserunning value and probably won’t have any defensive value, he is really going to have to hit. Hitting is something Owings has done pretty well, with a 104 wRC+ in his career, meaning he is an above league average hitter. However, he had a BABIP of .389, which is surely unsustainable, and he had a 72/8 K/BB ratio. That .11 BB/K ratio would be the worst in baseball out of qualified hitters (Delmon Young is the worst in the league with a .15). Certainly nothing that I saw showed that Owings has any real patience, and he certainly has a lot of swing and miss in his game. He will chase the breaking ball and seems to have a bit of problems with his bat speed. The low and away breaking ball looks like the only pitch he will chase:
Pitchers seem to like to work away from him, which makes sense considering his swing:
He certainly looked like a pull hitter when I saw him, but he actually has a pretty balanced spray chart for his career:
So will Owings provide real value for the Padres as a PH/1B? It seems unlikely to me. He has put up some good numbers in a short sample size, but it looks like he has too much holes in his offensive game to make up for his lack of positional value and baserunning value. He may be a decent bench piece or a 24th/25th man on the roster, but it is hard to imagine that it will be justifiable for him to become a starter.