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January 18, 2016 at 7:00 AM

2015 Graduates in Review: Henry Owens

As an extension of our Top 40 in Review series, we are featuring the seven players who were ranked in the Top 40 during the 2015 season and graduated from prospect status. All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.

2015 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 122 1/3 IP, 3.16 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 103 K, 56 BB (minors); 63 IP, 4.57 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 50 K, 24 BB (majors)
Peak System Ranking: 2 (Feb. 6, 2015)
Graduated: October 2015 (#4)
Season in Review: 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Season in Review: After struggling in his second major league spring training, Owens returned to Pawtucket to start the 2015 season with the goal of preparing himself for his first major league call-up. It was clear from seeing Owens early in the year—if not, perhaps, from listening to him and his coaches, who would deny as much in later interviews—that he was not throwing his outstanding changeup in order to work on other parts of his game, namely his fastball command and his other secondaries, a curveball and a slider, the latter a new offering for the tall lefty. As a result, his early-season results, at least statistically, were middling. In his first 12, starts, Owens only allowed 44 hits and a .196 batting average over 64 1/3 innings, but he walked 44 batters and struck out just 51, both career-worst rates. His 3.64 ERA may not have stood out as particularly bad, but his inability to limit free passes stood out as particularly worrisome.

However, around mid-June, perhaps by a combination of his early-season work taking hold and a willingness to utilize his changeup more often, Owens saw a marked improvement. In what would prove to be his final nine Triple-A starts, Owens thew 58 innings, more than a full inning more per outing, allowing just 40 hits and 14 walks while striking out 52. His walk rate over that stretch was better than any mark he had posted for a season in his young career, and his final five starts were strong enough to make him the site's Pitcher of the Month for July.

Owens proved to be peaking at the right time, as when Rick Porcello was placed on the DL, the Red Sox called upon him to make his major league debut, throwing him right into the Yankee Stadium spotlight on August 4. He lasted five innings in that game, allowing three earned runs in a 6-1 loss. Owens spent the rest of the season in the majors, achieving a roller-coaster ride's disparity of results. He gave up seven runs, all earned, in three of those outings—including an interesting start against Seattle in which he also struck out 10 and walked one in six innings but also gave up 10 hits, including three home runs. On the other hand, he allowed one or fewer earned runs in six starts, and he got through five innings in all but two of his 11 outings. Although he showed what his potential could be, he also showed that there were still question marks about how his stuff would play in the majors on a consistent basis. - Chris Hatfield/Nick Rabasco

Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: Listed at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Owens has packed on considerable muscle each off-season since being drafted out of high-school in 2011 at 175 pounds. Physically, Owens has very long arms and legs and will always be on the skinny and lean side. His added bulk should help Owens through the course of a season, as he admitted that he began to tire towards the end of the 2014 season and again in 2015 after seeing his innings jump from 135 to 168 to 185 from 2013-2015. Owens will still only be 23 years of age entering the 2016 season and should begin to get used to his physically maturing body each year. Ideally, this will finally help muscle memory take over to help hone his release point and delivery, resulting in improved command of his four-pitch mix.

Owens' fastball is fringe-average at 88-91 mph with minimal movement, but it is playable as a result of deception in his delivery from his long limbs and angle from a high three-quarters arm slot from the first base side of the rubber. The command and control waver from outing to outing and project to be average at best due to an inconsistent release point. As he continues to mature and get used to his body, I believe he should be able to demonstrate an average command and control profile in the future.

The changeup is his bread and butter at 77-80 mph and is a true 70 grade offering. Owens has the ability to throw the pitch at any time and in any count with confidence. The pitch consistently shows bat-missing ability and is thrown with good arm speed on the same plane as the fastball before darting downwards or fading down-and-away from right-handed hitters or even down-and-in on left-handed hitters.

Owens' curveball is generally 71-75 mph with long, loose break. The pitch breaks early out of his hand and is fairly easy to pick up. It is a fringe-average offering and still has a chance to develop if he can tighten it up and get more on top of the pitch. Owens also began to incorporate a slider at 78-82 mph in 2015 that has really only been thrown on rare occasions at this point. The pitch is a below-average grade pitch at this point and nothing more than a show-me pitch, although he showed a surprising willingness to throw the pitch early in his time in the majors.

Owens' future probably lies in the middle-to-back end of the rotation as a result of lack of true swing-and-miss ability outside of the changeup and an inconsistent command and control profile. However, he is still only 23 years-old and there are some signs of projectability going forward. Owens should begin the year back with Triple-A Pawtucket and offers immediate depth for the major league rotation should a need arise. - Chaz Fiorino

Photo Credit: Kelly O'Connor

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