Prospect Report: Could Henry Owens Emerge As Boston’s #5 Starter?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Red Sox could still acquire a true ace to front their rotation, but with each passing day that seemingly becomes less likely. Max Scherzer landed in Washington. Rumors are that Cole Hamels will open the season in Philadelphia. James Shields is the best name left available, but that’s not necessarily the type of splash Boston was looking for nor have they been at the forefront of the rumors.

As it stands right now Joe Kelly would likely open the year as the team’s fifth starter, though he’s hardly a given. Whether he loses the job in Spring Training, struggles early on or an injury to another starter opens the door, the Red Sox have young depth who can make an immediate impact. Front and center is Henry Owens, who likely will be first in line when a need arises.

A first round pick in 2011, Owens reached Triple-A in 2014 and is on the precipice of reaching the Majors. The 22-year only saw 38.0 innings at the highest level, posting a 4.03 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. The numbers are deceiving as he featured a 10.42 K/9 and 2.84 BB/9.

Control has always been the biggest question facing Owens, with a career 3.96 BB/9. Over 159.0 innings between Double and Triple-A last season he improved to 3.34. It’s promising, he just needs to maintain consistency.

Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 said of Owens:

“his lack of a quality consistent breaking pitch is getting worrisome and his mechanics can get out of whack, leading to control problems. I believe the biggest part of his control problem comes down to him controlling his 6-foot-6 frame. But when it all works, it’s extremely impressive.”

Baseball America had a similar take, though noting an improvement this past season:

“With ongoing strength gains, Owens continues to make strides in locking in his delivery, contributing to a decrease in his walk rate that was accompanied by working more consistently down in the zone for quick outs.”

Owens’ groundball rate did take a significant step up this year, rising to 44.4%, another promising sign. Better control and increased groundballs coming from a strikeout pitcher? That almost sounds too good to be true…

Both reports label Owens’ changeup as a tremendous pitch, the question is going to be if he can develop his curveball (or another pitch). Worst case? He appears to have the makings of an elite closer, though the Red Sox will surely give him an opportunity to establish himself as a starter.

If he can continue on the path he set for himself last season, he could quickly emerge as a viable fantasy option and make an impact in 2015. While he’s obviously a must own in dynasty formats, those in redraft/keeper leagues will also want to consider stashing him on draft day. The upside is simply too great to ignore.

Sources – Minor League Central, Prospect 361, Baseball America

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