Chris Owings was an under-the-radar fantasy shortstop heading into 2014, but inconsistent playing time led to an underwhelming rookie performance. Splitting time with Didi Gregorius, Owings racked up only 287 plate appearances in the desert, hitting .305/.343/.368 with six home runs, 34 runs, 26 RBI and eight steals.
Following Gregorius' offseason trade to the Yankees, Owings is cleared to be the Diamondbacks everyday shortstop in 2015. Owings did injure his shoulder in June, leading to offseason surgery in October, but he should be ready for Opening Day, according to recent reports. The lone possible threat to Owings is 24-year-old Nick Ahmed, who was acquired in the Justin Upton deal.
If Owings proves healthy in spring training, the 23-year-old shortstop should see a nice bump in preseason rankings. Owings is currently being drafted as the No. 15 shortstop, according to NESN.com's NFBC ADP, going after Asdrubal Cabrera and J.J. Hardy. While Cabrera and Hardy have been doing it much longer, Owing's upside makes him the intriguing pick. In the Fake Teams Consensus Rankings, we ranked Owings as the No. 16 shortstop, with a high ranking of 12 and a low ranking of 25.
Steamer is very conservative in its projection for Owings in 2015, giving him a line of .251/.281/.379 over 406 plate appearances with eight home runs, 38 runs, 39 RBI and nine steals. ZiPS is more optimistic, projecting a line of .276/.309/.410 over 518 plate appearances with nine home runs, 61 runs, 49 RBI and 16 steals. I tend to side more with ZiPS; I see Owings being a potential 10/15 threat.
In six minor-league seasons, the 2009 first-round pick (41st overall) hit .291/.319/.438 in 494 games with 48 home runs and 58 steals. In a full season at Triple-A Reno in 2013, he lit up Pacific Coast League pitching to the tune of .330/.359/.482 with 12 home runs, 104 runs and 20 steals.
Despite his high on-base percentage at Triple-A, Owings refuses to take a walk. In 135 games at Triple-A, he walked just 22 times. Last year in Arizona, his walk rate was 4.8 percent, well under the league average. At the major-league level, it will be that much harder to sustain a high batting average without showing more discipline (his contact rate was 78 percent last season), I see Owings in that .265-.275 range.
Still, there are very little shortstops that provide 10/15 upside. Only three shortstops (Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins, Alexei Ramirez) accomplished the feat last year, while a couple more came close. It isn't 100 percent clear where Owings will fit in Arizona's lineup, but he's likely to start somewhere in the bottom third without strong on-base skills. If that's the case, Owings' counting stats will be affected some.
Entering 2015, I see Owings as a potential starter in 14-team leagues, but a better fit for the middle infield slot in standard formats. I thought I would come out of this exercise liking Owings more, but questionable on-base skills, injury questions and an imperfect spot in the Diamondbacks lineup make him difficult to trust at least initially. He's still a great target in the later rounds, with the potential of being only a handful of shortstops giving you 10 home runs and 15 steals.