The FutureBacks Fifty: #11 Micah Owings

Micah Owings is not your average pitcher. For one thing, he's a monster. At 6'5" and 220lbs, he looks more like a middle linebacker, or at least a big power hitting first baseman...which is a strange coincidence, since Owings, whom the Diamondbacks took in the third round of the '05 draft, was a big power hitting first baseman at Tulane. The Diamondbacks liked his bat, but they loved his arm, and every once in a while they have to remind him of that fact.


Name: Micah Owings           

Position:  Right handed Pitcher

DOB:  09/28/1982

Height: 6'5"

Weight: 220lbs

Bats/Throws: R/R

History:  "He's not here to hit," Diamondbacks Vice President of Scouting Operations Mike Rizzo said with a laugh shortly after Owings joined the Hi-A Lancaster JetHawks last season, "but if he had his way I think he'd probably still be a two-way player like he was at Tulane."

And he probably could be.  More than one team was interested in Owings as a first baseman, after hitting 69 homers in high school and a ton more with Georgia Tech and then Tulane, but the Diamondbacks thought his arm, which can amp up to 95mph, was took good to waste at first base.  He settled in the bullpen last year after a long season of two-way play in college, but will move back to the starting rotation this year.

Pitches:  Owings is not a power pitcher, but he's certainly not a nibbler either.  His fastball sat in the low 90s in college, but even after the long season 95mph was something of a regularity when he was coming out of the bullpen last year.  As he adjusts to a 'pitching only' schedule and moves back to the starting rotation the Diamondbacks think he'll end up consistently hitting 93 with the occasional 95 or 96mph fastball in key situations.

And that slight increase in velocity should help his changeup tremendously.  The change is as close to an out pitch as Owings has, and any added zip on the fastball should aid the offspeed offering, which has a nice natural down-and-in movement to right handers. 

The third pitch is the one he will have to work on.  He throws a slider that will flatten out at times and the Diamondbacks have to figure out how to deal with it.  He could simply spend another season working on the pitch, there has been talk of having him work on a more traditional curve ball, but the prevailing wisdom seems to be that a cutter most favors him arm action and velocity.  Still, a new pitch takes time to develop, and that could be the one thing that holds Owings back from a quick ascension to the top of the minor league pitching depth chart.

Prediction:  Despite Owings obvious advantages, until that third pitch develops the Diamondbacks will have no choice but to keep him at Double-A, where he is likely to start the season.  Owings' has a work ethic that one scout deemed, "ridiculous," regularly putting in 10 hours days, even on game day, at the park.  His attitude is spectacular, though the Diamondbacks would like to see him stop harassing managers about letting him hit, a problem that wasn't helped when Owings lone at bat last season was an RBI single.

"He came out of shoot hot, hitting 96mph, which was really impressive for a guy who had already played so much," Rizzo says, "Now that he's not splitting time hitting and pitching, we can see him moving quickly.  He's really thrown the heck out of the ball."

Owings will start at Double-A Tennessee this season, in the starting rotation, which was always the plan, but his success out of the bullpen last year (1-1, 2.45 ERA, 30 strikeouts to just four walks in 22 innings pitched) could be hint toward his future.  As a reliever he throws harder, and there would be less emphasis on the third pitch.  The Diamondbacks believe he's a starter now, but it has to feel good to know that a move back to the bullpen could bring those results.

ETA:  Despite the myriad changes the Diamondbacks have made, one thing remains consistent.  The starting rotation and the bullpen are not set.  That means Owings has a chance to break in quickly in either role.  His '06 will be spent on a third pitch and establishing his arm strength, and solid performances at Double-A could set him up for an '07 jump.  Rizzo has a history of picking players he thinks will develop quickly, and Owings fits that mold.  Options abound for both the Diamondbacks and Owings as far as his future is concerned, and figuring out if he's a bullpen dominator or a middle of the rotation starter might be the single biggest priority for the organization in '06.

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