Not a Rookie: Micah Owings
Micah Owings was a high-profile college player at Georgia Tech (2005) and Tulane (2006), being used as a starting pitcher at both schools but also spending time as an outfielder and first baseman due to his strong bat. He was a very good hitter; hitting .355 with 18 homers for Tulane in '06 for example. But most scouts preferred him as a pitcher. The Diamondbacks drafted him in the third round in '05, and he did well right away, posting a 2.45 ERA with a 30/4 K/BB in 22 innings for Lancaster in the Cal League after signing. His fastball was average at 88-92 MPH in college, but he threw 92-94 MPH when used in the bullpen for Lancaster. He had a good changeup and a promising, if erratic, slider. I gave him a Grade B- in the 2006 book, noting that I liked him quite a bit but that he would have more value if the slider developed enough that he could be used in the rotation.
Owings split 2006 between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Tucson, going a combined 16-2, 3.32 with a 130/51 K/BB ratio. His velocity settled into the 89-92 range. Interestingly, his slider improved while his changeup regressed a bit. But he held his own in Triple-A one year out of college. I gave him a Grade B in the book last year, thinking that he would need additional Triple-A time, but again I wrote that I liked him.
Owings made 27 starts for the Diamondbacks last year, going 8-8, 4.30 with a 106/50 K/BB in 153 innings, ERA+ of 109. I don't think it's a fluke. He was very effective in August and September (45/13 K/BB, 3.02 ERA in 10 starts, 60 innings). As his fans point out, he's a really good hitter, too, a career .333/.349/.683 hitter in the majors and .377/.381/.525 in the minors, though those numbers would deflate if he played every day.
So what does Owings offer for the future?
I see him as an inning-eater type who should maintain his current level of above-average performance, perhaps with improvement as he gains experience. He doesn't strike me as the type with a higher-than-average injury risk. I'd like to see his walk rate come down a little bit. It's not bad, but improved command would obviously help him a great deal, as I don't think we're going to see a huge velocity or dominance boost.
I could see him developing along a John Lackey path. Lackey had a good rookie year at age 23, was an average inning-eater at age 24 and 25 (ERA+ of 95 and 96 but throwing 200 innings a year) then started to take a step forward at age 26 (ERA+ of 123, 128, and 151 the last three seasons). If Owings can get through to age 26-27 without a major injury or diminution of stuff, I think he will have some really nice seasons in his late 20s.
Of course he could also tear his rotator cuff in spring training and fall by the wayside.