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While he has a decent bat, Chris Owings' ability in the field could be what wins him the starting SS gig for Arizona. Image: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

2014 MLB players to watch: Arizona Diamondbacks SS Chris Owings

With the first round of pitchers and catchers reporting a little over three weeks away (Diamondbacks on 2/7), anticipation is starting to mount about the upcoming season. With that, every team’s fans begin to ask each other, “Who do you think is going to be good this season?” So, over the next few weeks, is going to go team-by-team through Major League baseball (alphabetically) and focus on this season’s “player to watch” for each team. In some cases, this could be a rookie or maybe an older veteran that really hasn’t put it together until the perfect storm arrives. In any case, this is the player that has the opportunity to make a significant impact for their club. We begin this journey through the big leagues with a look at Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings.

The 22 year-old made his MLB debut last season with the Diamondbacks after a September call-up and should expect to see significantly more opportunities this year at the big league level. He enters 2014 with the chance to compete for the starting SS role, but has some definite talent going against him in Didi Gregorius and veteran Cliff Pennington. It certainly won’t be an easy task for Owings, but of all the prospects in the Diamondbacks organization, Owings seems to have the best shot at making a major impact for the MLB club.

Considering the fact that Owings was taken as a first round draft pick in 2009 by Arizona, it’s safe to assume they see a lot of potential in his ability. Add to it that he was 2013’s Pacific Coast MVP and Rookie of the Year, and he has set his own bar fairly high. But again, he still has to prove himself at baseball’s highest level, and it appears the Diamondbacks will give him that opportunity.

Last season, the Charleston, South Carolina native played 125 games for the Reno Aces and made 575 plate appearances. For the season he batted a very stout .330 and hit 12 home runs with 81 RBI. Of course, the power numbers don’t tell the whole story of a player and can be quite misleading.

What might be the biggest flaw in his chances, is his lack of patience at the plate. In those 575 plate appearances, Owings walked just 22 times while striking out 99 times and grounded into 14 double plays. But to be fair, a look back to his 2012 numbers though, this is an improvement after combining 132 strikeouts, 24 walks and eight GIDPs between A+ and AA league play.  It should also be noted, that in a small sample size, Owings batted .291 with a .361 OBP, 10 walks and six K’s during his MLB call-up last season. Perhaps this is evidence that with another year of experience under his belt and maybe even some major league tutoring from Turner Ward, he could improve on those minor league numbers.

On the contrary, Owings’ biggest opportunity to shine comes in the field. He has a good arm with solid range and could certainly win the big league job with his glove. As one major league scout writes:

Very good glove. Soft hands and excellent instincts. Game has slowed for him, making routine plays more routine and excellent plays more frequent. Range isn’t exceptional but instincts help it play up. Gets to balls up the middle better than he does in the hole. Overall very good defender with the head for the position. Legit SS. Should stick and could be an above-average defender.

The remainder of that scouting report can be found here.

As for what other scouts and sources are saying, Baseball America lists Owings as the #3 prospect in the organization for 2014 while FanGraphs has him ranked #4.

In my own opinion, I think a good comparison would be free agent 3B Michael Young, with more speed and base-running ability. If given the opportunity, he could very well hit a modest .290 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI and a .340 OBP.

Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks Chris Owings MLB MLB Prospects MLB Rookies 2014

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