Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Kown was a dominating high school pitcher; tossing 3 no-hitters during his prep career. Moving on to college, Kown struggled with the adjustment to the Division I game, posting an ERA over nine in four freshman appearances. After making some adjustments, he showed signs of life working in a swingman role during his sophomore campaign. He followed up his improved second season, with a trip to play in the Alaskan Summer Baseball League; a trip that proved to be a huge stepping stone for Kown. Andrew returned to the Yellow Jackets for the 2004 season, and dominated his ACC counterparts; posting a 10-1 record with a 3.46 ERA in 112 innings. Those ten wins were good enough for first in the baseball hotbed that is the ACC.
Kown's breakthrough season vaulted him up draft boards, where the Tigers selected him in the 5th round. Upon signing for just over $200,000, Kown reported to short-season Oneonta where he continued his impressive run. In nine starts, Andrew tossed 41 innings, striking out 37 while walking only 13, and posting a 2.85 ERA. The 2005 season was supposed to be one where he announced himself as a serious prospect; unfortunately, it didn't go quite as planned. Kown was pitching pretty well prior to being struck on the head with a line drive. It was a struggle to regain confidence from that point on, and Andrew ended the season with a 4.36 ERA and 8-11 record in 150 innings for West Michigan.
A brief return to West Michigan in 2006 got Kown back on track. In 16 relief innings for the ‘Caps, Andrew didn't allow a run, and only allowed 10 base runners total. A prompt promotion to Lakeland moved Kown back into the starting rotation, where he managed a 6-5 record and a 3.53/1.36 line for a struggling Lakeland squad. Kown started the 2007 season with Double-A Erie, and outside of one start with Lakeland in May, he pitched entire season for the Seawolves. Upon returning to the ‘Wolves, Andrew got on a bit of a role, taking home TigsTown's Erie Pitcher of the Month award for June, and finishing his season with a 4.13 ERA and 6-8 record in his first showing against experienced minor league hitters.
Kown is a tall, lanky athlete with surprising agility and coordination. His fastball typically sits in the 88-92 range, but can touch 94 on rare occasions. He generates excellent sinking action on his fastball, inducing both swinging strikes and groundballs. Adding to his groundball arsenal, Kown's slider is an above-average pitch that he commands well to both sides of the plate. He has battled keeping his arm up on his slider, and must focus on that to maintain the pitches bite. His change-up lags behind his two primary offerings, and his inability to demonstrate consistency with the pitch may relegate him to the bullpen long term.
Kown carries a calm demeanor on and off the field, but don't be fooled, he is a fierce competitor on the mound; one who opened eyes with a strong spring start against the Atlanta Braves last spring. He is an excellent athlete who moves around the mound well, fielding his position cleanly, and routinely finding himself in the correct position to make the necessary plays. Because of his lanky frame, Andrew's mechanics can get out of whack at times, but he generally manages them well and repeats his arm slot easily.
Kown has the durability to remain in a professional rotation, but without a quality third pitch, he best profiles in a swingman or full-time bullpen role. His sinker-slider combination and competitive streak could lend well to a relief role.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A
Aside from the injuries sustained when he was struck by a liner in 2005, Kown has remained healthy throughout his collegiate and professional careers. His ability to soak up innings in both a starting and relief role will serve him well, and it is likely the organization could take the reins off of him at this point and let him go.
Though a candidate for the Toledo rotation, Kown is almost certainly destined for a return trip to Double-A, where he will again fill a key role for the SeaWolves. New Manager Tom Brookens and Pitching Coach Ray Burris will look to Andrew to provide leadership and guidance to the pitching staff.
Expect Kown to build upon his solid showing in the Eastern League in 2007, possibly garnering the attention of organizational types and earning himself a September call-up. Several Eastern League managers have expressed that they feel Kown could help a Major League bullpen right now; and given the Tigers uncertainty in the relief corps, it is possible his shot comes sooner rather than later.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.