The hype Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Henry Owens received when making his major league debut last season at Yankee Stadium was not fair to him and very unwarranted. Still young at 23 years old, Owens’ ceiling is that of a number four starter, more likely a number five. Many may be curious as to why this is and how he’s been getting hit so hard thus far in his major league career. Owens is not good enough to start at this level, at least not yet.
Henry Owens: Another Left Handed Pitching Specialist?
Left handed pitchers are seen as a more valuable commodity in baseball. The reason for this is because being left handed is more of a rarity than being right handed. Most major league players are righty and having a left handed pitcher to throw out there is a nice change of pace. A pitch coming from a lefty is seen differently by a hitter than one coming from a righty. This is especially true when a left handed pitcher faces a left handed batter. With all of this in mind, some may think Owens has an advantage over other major league hopeful starting pitchers. He does have an edge on right handed pitchers with big league hopes because of this and is likely to be given a more extended look at this level. However, up to this point in his career, Owens has been nothing but a let down.
Last year, Owens had a 4.57 ERA in 63 innings, his first taste of the big leagues. That is a small sample size to judge a starting pitcher off of. Adding this season’s totals to that, he still only has 72.1 innings under his belt. Typically I am not one to judge a pitcher with such a small sample size but Owens has shown me enough to point out why he cannot succeed right now and what he must do to make it work at this level.
Owens relies primarily on his plus change-up in order to set up his fastball. His fastball is easily hit, throwing 88-92 mph and leaving the pitch in spots where major league hitters will destroy it. Owens change-up has been said to be his strong pitch and at times it shows. The only problem with his change-up is that he cannot locate it. Because of this, hitting his fastball is that much easier.
I’ve always compared him to a cheap man’s Francisco Liriano if he reaches his potential. Both pitchers struggle with command and work with similar pitchers. The main two differences between the two is that Liriano throws harder and incorporates a slider as a third pitch rather than the curve ball that Owens has added. Also, left handed batters fear Liriano, something that they don’t with Owens. Left handed hitters hit .293 against Owens last season. This season has been no different as they are hitting .300 off of him. The lefty on lefty match up typically favors left handed pitchers but Owens hasn’t figured that out.
Henry Owens: What does Owens have to do to improve?
Owens has been painful to watch as a major league pitcher. While I do not see him being anything more than a fourth starter, he could get better if he works on and improves a couple things quickly. He must figure out a third pitch to incorporate. He has added a curve ball but is very hesitant to throw it. A pitcher cannot survive throwing just two pitches, unless one is a knuckleball. He also must command his pitches much better than he does right now. If one cannot locate, they will not last long at this level. Hopefully Owens figures it out. I am definitely rooting for him but don’t hold your breath waiting for this guy to live up to the hype he was wrongly given, it will never happen.