Red Sox may need to wait on Henry Owens


Though the Red Sox starting rotation has been dreadful this season, the Fenway faithful have weathered the storm by looking towards the future. Just a stop away in Triple-A Pawtucket, the Red Sox have the promising trio of left-handers Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, and Brian Johnson. But while Rodriguez and Johnson have made a strong impression in their first tastes of Triple-A, Owens has scuffled a bit in the early going and the Red Sox may have to give him significantly more time in the upper minors.

On the positive side, Owens has remained difficult to hit. The 22-year old southpaw, who once strung together 19 consecutive hitless innings in Double-A Portland, has never been easy to hit for opposing batters. In 2015, Owens has limited his Triple-A opposition to a meager .171 batting average, which would be the best mark of any season in his minor league career.

However, while Owens has flummoxed hitters with his deceptive fastball and baffling change, he has also struggled mightily with his command. Owens has never been a control pitcher by any means, walking 4.1 batters per nine innings throughout his minor league career, but he appeared to be if not resolving that issue, then at least ameliorating it when he walked just 3.3 per nine en route to a 2.94 ERA between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

On the contrary, Owens has struggled with his command at an unprecedented rate in the early going this season. Owens has walked an appalling 7.3 batters per nine innings, complemented by a career-low strikeout rate (also 7.3 per nine) and, though his 4.06 ERA doesn’t quite reflect it, changes will be necessary for Owens going forward.

Due to his struggles to start the season, Owens’ ability to start on a full-time basis has been called into question. These command troubles are a serious issue for Owens, as one simply cannot go deep into games when they are walking nearly a batter per inning. Plus, while Owens is able to feast on the minor league hitters he doesn’t walk through his deception, his lack of dominant stuff could come back to bite him in the majors. Owens relies heavily on his fastball, which sits in the high 80’s and low 90’s, and an elite change, but his curve needs work as a third pitch.

Though some made the pre-season argument that Boston’s “ace” could come from within, rather than trading for Cole Hamels or a similar pitcher, from Owens or perhaps Rodriguez. However, Owens no longer appears to be in line for a promotion anytime soon. He’ll need to demonstrate his ability to limit walks in addition to further developing his curve in order to even receive a promotion this season. Owens is still young (he won’t turn 23 until July) and he has plenty of time to sort out his issues, but if you expect that he’ll be contributing in Boston this season, you might be disappointed.