Henry Owens, Boston’s number one pitching prospect according to SoxProspects.com, raised his stock even further Tuesday afternoon with two brilliant innings against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers.
Owens entered the game in the 6th inning, and immediately struck out the first batter he faced in Corey Brown. He followed that up with back-to-back fly balls to left fielder Bryce Brentz to end the frame.
The tall 22-year old southpaw then retired Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee to begin the seventh, before setting Steven Souza Jr. down on strikes to finish his afternoon after two perfect innings.
The improvement over last spring training, Owens’ first with the major league club, is already evident to Sox’ manager John Farrell.
“[His] poise. Confidence,” Farrell said in an interview with MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “His breaking ball to me this spring is a little tighter and a little more sharp than we saw a year ago. He’s starting to, I think, through physical maturity and gaining some weight and overall strength, develop a little better fastball velocity.”
The differential between his fastball and change up velocity has played a big part in Owen’s recent success.
“He flashed some good fastballs today,” Farrel told Browne. “His changeup is always going to be the signature pitch for him. The three pitches that he has have such definition that he can attack a guy multiple ways.”
Owens, who is listed at 6′ 7″, seems to possess all the physical tools one would want in a top of the rotation starter.
He is coming off a season in which he went 17-5 with a 2.94 ERA and 170 strikeouts over 26 appearances (all starts) between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket. Owens also earned trips to both the mid-season and post-season All-Star games for the AA Eastern League, as well as winning their Pitcher of the Year award.
The Huntington Beach, CA native will have to prove himself against other top lefty pitching prospects Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez, but many within the Sox’ organization feel very highly about Owens, and believe he has the potential to be Boston’s ace of the future.