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Not a Rookie: Adam Loewen

Adam Loewen was drafted by the Orioles in the first round in 2002, fourth overall, out of high school in Surrey, British Columbia. He didn't sign right away, but he skipped his Arizona State scholarship and went to Chipola JC instead to retain the ability to sign. I didn't give him a grade in the 2003 book since it was unclear what would happen to him. He had a good campaign in junior college and signed with Baltimore right before he would have gone back into the '03 draft pool. His pro debut was strong: 2.70 ERA with a 25/9 K/BB in 23 innings in the New York-Penn League. I gave him a Grade B in the '04 book, noting that he had ace potential if he could improve his command.

Loewen spent most of 2004 at Class A Delmarva in the Sally League, going 4-5, 4.11 with a 82/58 K/BB in 85 innings. He also made two starts for Class A Frederick, losing both and allowing nine walks in eight innings. Problems with his mechanics hampered his command, and his season ended early with a labrum injury. This was corrected without surgery, but the injury combined with his command problems limited him to a Grade C+ in the 2005 book.

Loewen spent 2005 at Frederick, going 10-8, 4.12 with a 146/86 K/BB in 142 innings. Impressive K/IP but too many walks stand out. Scouting reports pointed out his 90-95 MPH fastball, big-breaking curve, and strong ground ball tendencies, but also noted the remaining command issues. I wrote that "he could turn into Francisco Liriano, but he could also turn into Ty Howington" and moved him back up to Grade B.

2006 saw Loewen pitch very well at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, sharpening his command considerably, but struggling in the majors, going 6-6, 5.37 with a 98/62 K/BB. Last year he kept his ERA low at 3.56, but of course was limited to just 30.1 innings by injury. And in those 30.1 innings his K/BB was an ugly 22/26.

Two issues here: health and command. The elbow stress fracture that ended his '07 campaign early is fine now and is not expected to be an issue. There hasn't been a recurrence thus far of the labrum problem from 2004. Of course it's entirely possible that either problem could recur or something else could happen. I can't predict that obviously.

As for the command issue, anyone who has seen Loewen pitch knows he's got first-class stuff when healthy and just needs to be more consistent with it. But that's a big "just needs"...can Loewen actually do it?

The top name on Loewen's Sim Score list is Al Leiter, who also ranks highly (fifth) on his PECOTA comp list. The Lieter comp makes a lot of sense to me: injury and command problems, occasionally overpowering, a better-than-average pitcher overall with flashes of brilliance but never quite living up to his complete potential. That's' what I expect out of Loewen at this point, assuming he doesn't completely fall apart.