We've already begun our encompassing look at the shortstop position with the release of our consensus top 30 shortstop for the 2014 season. We will not be releasing a top prospect list by position this year, so there is no list of top 20 shortstop prospects coming, for the simple reason that ranking them for position isn't likely to help a lot of fantasy owners. Instead, as a part of each position, the prospect staff will look at a few prospects at each position who could potentially have an impact during the 2014 season. Next up is our look at Diamondbacks' prospect Chris Owings.
Weight: 180 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: Yes
Options Remaining: 3
DOB: 8/12/1991 (Age 22 Season)
Owings was drafted by the Diamondbacks with the 41st overall pick in the 2009 draft, hailing from a high school in South Carolina. He was to attend the University of South Carolina (apparently along with Wil Myers), but instead took the Diamondbacks' offer of just under $1 million to turn pro. Despite signing in late August, Owings was able to appear in 24 games for the Diamondbacks' short-season affiliate. At the time, there were questions about his long-term position, but remained at shortstop into his first full-season assignment in 2010. He appeared in just 62 games at Low-A that year, due in part to foot injuries, but hit a solid .298 with five home runs in that time.
The organization moved him up to the Cal League for 2011, but he did not have a particularly good season in the high-offense environment. He did have 11 home runs and 10 stolen bases, but hit just .246 and posted a walk rate below 3% on the year. He returned to High-A to start 2012, and after hitting .324 with 11 home runs in just 59 games, moved to AA for the rest of the year, where he hit a more pedestrian .269 with another five home runs. He was sent to Reno's extreme offense environment to start the 2013 season, and hit .330 with 12 home runs, 20 stolen bases en route to winning the league's MVP award. The team called him up for the last month of the season, where he appeared in 20 games and hit .291 with two steals.
The Scouting Report
Owings doesn't have one tool that is necessarily considered a carrying tool, but rather is considered to have at least solid potential across all five. He's not going to be a 20+ home run hitter in the majors, but could provide 12-15 per season due to good bat speed and solid power. He's not a burner, but should still be able to provide a similar amount of stolen bases as well. There are concerns about his approach, as he has shown a propensity to strike out and not draw a ton of walks in the past. However, he did have better numbers in those categories last year, and long-term it is not expected to keep him from being a valuable contributor. On defense, Owings can play shortstop and be at least an average defender there for the foreseeable future. It's possible he ends up moving to second base down the line, but his bat should play at either position.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
It sounds like Didi Gregorius is ahead of Owings on the depth chart as of right now, especially given GM Kevin Towers' quotes from a few days ago. That said, it is expected to be an open competition during Spring Training.
When Could He Arrive?
I think that at the end of the day, Owings should beat out Gregorius for the starting job, and is there on Opening Day.
What Can He Do When He Gets There?
Owings has the potential to provide 15 HR/15 SB seasons with a solid batting average. He's likely to be a bit of a drag if you play in OBP leagues, as his highest walk rate in the minors was just over 5%, and isn't expected to be that high in the majors. Regardless, he can provide at least solid production across all five categories, but is unlikely to provide above-average production in any of them.
I have ranked Owings as the #26 shortstop for 2014, which has a lot more to do with his role on the team than the production I anticipate from him. If he wins the starting shortstop job, he could be a top 15 shortstop, providing double-digit power and speed. Unfortunately, having Didi Gregorius there clouds the picture, and keeps him from being a target in most mixed leagues and redraft leagues until we know more. I prefer him to Gregorius though, and would be targeting him as a high upside play in NL-only leagues for sure.
Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball