Per reader request, a Double-A Transition Monitor for White Sox Prospect Jerry Owens
Jerry Owens was drafted in the second round by the Expos in 2003, out of The Master's College in California. He was mostly a football player as an amateur, not turning to baseball full-time until '03. His best tool is speed, and there was mixed opinion about how well he would hit against pro pitching.
For Savannah in 2004, Owens hit .292/.365/.340, with 30 steals in 43 attempts. He didn't show much power, just 17 doubles, two triples, and a homer. But his plate discipline was reasonable, and he didn't strike out much, just 59 whiffs in 418 at-bats. The main problem was age-relative-to-league. At age 23 in the Sally League, he didn't have an ideal place on the development curve. However, his lack of baseball experience as an amateur was a mitigating factor.
Owens was traded to the White Sox in February '05 for outfielder Alex Escobar. The White Sox skipped him past the advanced A level, assigning him to Double-A Birmingham. He blossomed in Double-A, hitting .331/.393/.406 with 38 steals, 52 walks, and 72 strikeouts in 522 at-bats. This has to count as a successful Double-A transition, especially for a guy regarded as being raw for his age.
What can we expect from Owens in the future? He hit for a bit more power this year, although he will never be a big basher. His walk rate is mediocre, but his strikeout rate is reasonably low. His OPS was safely above average at + 9 percent compared to league, hardly outstanding but decent. However, his Secondary Average was 15 percent worse than league average, showing that his skill base is rather narrow at this point. Most of his value is tied up in his batting average, and if that drops below, say, .280, he'll be a drag on the offense rather than an asset. Although Owens is very fast, his basestealing percentage is only 65%, below the 70% marker of quality.
Overall, Owens did well this year but still has flaws in his game and has more work to do. I think he will need a full year in Triple-A. If he doesn't develop additional power, he MUST improve his basestealing. Adding more walks to his resume would help as well, making his OBP less reliant on his batting average. For me, he projects best as a fourth outfielder.