Spared one tough decision on Owings, Reds still have another

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owings.jpgAs mentioned last night, Micah Owings lost the tiebreaker that would have gained him super-two eligibility and increased his 2010 salary from $500,000 to likely around $1 million or so.
Had Owings been made arbitration eligible, it’s possible that the Reds would have non-tendered him. The 27-year-old went 7-12 with a 5.34 ERA last season and was even worse with the Diamondbacks in 2008, finishing 6-9 with a 5.93 ERA. He was only successful during his rookie season in 2007, when he went 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA.
So, as a pitcher, Owings very likely isn’t worth $1 million for 2010. It doesn’t look like he has the arsenal to stick as a starter, and his command has regressed in a big way.
Of course, Owings isn’t really known for his pitching these days. A star first baseman at Tulane, the 6-foot-5 Owings has hit .300/.331/.547 with eight homers in 170 major league at-bats. That line comes with a 56/8 K/BB ratio, but it’s still incredible for someone who hasn’t had more than 60 at-bats in a year since 2005.
There was already a legitimate case a year ago, but now there’s a great argument for converting Owings into a position player. Maybe he could be a perfectly useful major league reliever, but his arsenal hardly stands out. And he could always go back to that if he fails as a position player. On the other hand, his time to make the switch to the outfield is running out. At age 27, he’s going to have to improve his conditioning to pull it off. He’s only going to lose athleticism as he ages.
As a full-time hitter, Owings would seem to be a definite threat to hit 25 homers. Whether he’d maintain a respectable OBP along the way is the question. If he gets regular at-bats, the holes in his approach are going to be exposed. But he’ll also be able to concentrate on making adjustments. Plus, he’ll probably show more patience at the plate. For what it’s worth, he walked 42 times in 217 at-bats during his final year in college.
I think it’s clear he has more upside as a batter than as a pitcher at this point. And he could still be of additional use as an occasional reliever in games already decided. Whether he fits in with the Reds in that role is still up in the air. The team currently has Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Jonny Gomes, Chris Dickerson, Wladimir Balentien, Willy Taveras and Laynce Nix as outfield options. Taveras and Nix are both candidates to be released, but that still leaves five legitimate options, and Gomes, Balentien and Owings are remarkably similar offensive talents as right-handed power bats with OBP issues.
The Owings’ offensive ceiling so closely resembles Gomes’ 2009 season may, in fact, rule Owings the outfielder out as an option for the Reds. But it probably wouldn’t cost much at all for another team to bring in Owings. It’s time that he makes the switch, and there are several small-market clubs that would have something to gain by taking a chance on him.

Didi Gregorius continues to be ridiculous

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Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius had another fantastic night last night. He went 3-for-3, hitting a home run for the fourth game in a row, had an RBI single and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances in New York’s 7-4 win over Minnesota.

For the year that gives Gregorius a line of .372/.470/.833, putting him atop the American League in average, slugging, OPS, and OPS+. He also leads the league in total bases (65) and RBI (29). He leads all of baseball in fWAR at 2.2, edging out Mike Trout despite the fact that Trout has played in two more games. He’s second behind Trout in homers with nine.

After last night’s game he insisted that he is not a home run hitter:

“I do have a lot of home runs, but it’s not like I am going out there to try to hit them . . . I’m not a power guy like Judge and Stanton, who hit 50 to 60 and up. Those are the guys who actually hit home runs. One year, let’s say, I hit five — then you ask me where that part went . . . if they go out, they go out. I’m just mostly trying to barrel it up and get a good swing . . . I try to hit line drives and if you check most of my home runs they were line drives,” he said. “It’s not like I am going up to hit deep fly balls.”

Given that he hit 25 homers last year and 20 the year before, he’s being a bit modest, even if he’s not likely to keep up this torrid pace. That modesty is not stopping some people from getting a bit carried away, of course:

 

We’ll forgive Bob for the hyperbole. Didi has been fun to watch.