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August 14, 2013 at 7:30 AM

Scouting Scratch: Henry Owens

The first thing that stands out when left-hander Henry Owens (pictured) steps onto the mound is his height. Owens is listed at 6-foot-6 and looks every bit that tall. He has an ideal, projectable starting pitcher’s frame, still with plenty of room to fill out as he matures.

Owens throws from a high three-quarter arm slot and has an easy, repeatable delivery. From the windup, Owens works from the first-base side of the rubber and utilizes a high leg kick before driving towards the plate. He is balanced in his delivery and did a good job holding his line to the plate throughout the August 9 outing, his second start with Portland. From the stretch, Owens worked between 1.35-1.4 seconds with only a slight leg kick. He was consistent with his pacing and showed strong pitchability. Owens only went four innings, but that was due to his pitch count and not his results, as he only allowed two hard-hit balls for the duration of his outing. Overall, Owens threw 90 pitches, but 67 of those came in the third and fourth innings after he breezed through the first two.

Owens’ fastball sat 88-90 mph, topping out at 91 a handful of times. It lacked crispness and he was inconsistent commanding it, especially to the glove side. He did a good job staying on top of the ball, working down in the zone, but one of the few times he left the pitch up there he paid for it, allowing a line-drive HR to right field on a 88-mph fastball. The pitch lacked life and had little movement, showing some arm-side run on occasion. He also struggled to miss bats with the pitch, getting only two swing-and-misses against it. The Bowie hitters seemed to be picking the ball up pretty well and did a very good job spoiling it, which was part of the reason for Owens’ high pitch count.

A great example of his struggles occurred in the fourth inning, where Owens only faced four batters and struck out the side, but still had to throw 32 pitches to do it. In that inning alone, nine of the 11 fastballs he threw for strikes were fouled off. Part of their ability to make contact could be attributed to the Bowie hitters’ familiarity with Owens; they faced him in his previous start. Still, even with that said, Owens only gave up three hits on the fastball and generated a lot of weak contact.

Others who have seen Owens this year have seen him top out at 93 or 94 mph and sit in the low-90s, but he has been inconsistent about holding his velocity deep into games. As Owens matures his consistency with the pitch should improve and, with his frame, his velocity should tick up and hold deep into games. Though Owens’s fastball velocity was only average with fringe-average command, it still kept hitters honest, especially with the large variation in speed between it and his secondary pitches.

Owens was able to dominate with his secondary pitches on this occasion, recording seven out of his eight strikeouts and eliciting some very bad swings against them. His changeup was the better of the two offerings, but both it and his curveball were very effective. Owens’ changeup worked 76-79 mph and kept hitters off balance all night long. It showed plus and he was able to consistently throw the pitch for strikes while having the courage to throw it in any count, but interestingly only to right-handed hitters. He got eight swing-and-misses against the pitch and struck out two. Owens throws it from the same slot as his fastball and with similar arm speed. The pitch also has late arm-side fade and drop, thus it was very tough for hitters to recognize. It has the makings of a legitimate major league out-pitch that will miss bats at the highest level.

Owens curveball also showed plus potential in the outing and was a great complement to his fastball. The pitch worked 68-71 mph and had great shape, with slow, deep 11-5 break. On one occasion, he also threw a harder curveball at 75 mph. For the most part, Owens used the pitch with two strikes, throwing it only a few times earlier in the count, but did throw it to both right-handed  and left-handed hitters, unlike his changeup. When he threw it with two strikes, he was very effective, recording five strikeouts. His sequencing with the pitch allowed it to play up. For example, he threw six straight fastballs to start the game, before dropping in a 69-mph curve on a 3-2 count for a swinging strikeout. Following up his fastball with the pitch really changes the sight lines of hitters, providing a very different look, as not many pitchers throw a curveball that slow and with that much break. If he missed with the pitch it was always down, and no ball was put in play against it. The pitch was a little loose at times and still could use some tightening up. At times this year, Owens has thrown the pitch at a variety of speeds. In some starts, he’s thrown the really slow curveball I saw, but in others he’s thrown a harder version in the low-to-mid 70s, and even at the beginning of the year he showed a high-70s curveball. Recently, however, he seems to have settled in with the low-70s version and thus far he has been excelling with it.

Owens has had a strong season and established himself as one of the top arms in the system, and one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball. Out of all of the arms in the Red Sox system I’ve seen this year, Owens might have the highest floor as even if the fastball doesn’t progress, he still has the potential for two plus secondary pitches and would fit nicely in the back end of a major league rotation. If the fastball takes a step forward, however, and he refines his command and secondaries, there is the potential for him to be a solid mid-rotation starter.

Photo Credit: Henry Owens by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is a Northeast Scout for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.