Micah Owings has always been regarded as a great hitter for a pitcher. For his career, he has produced a triple-slash line of .283/.310/.502, with nine home runs in 219 plate appearances. During his rookie year with Arizona, the team floated around the idea of using him at first base, in order to get his bat in the lineup.
The Padres signed Owings to a one-year, $1 million contract prior to the 2012 season. The plan for him was for Owings to serve as a swingman, and an occasional pinch-hitter. Owings went down with a shoulder injury in April, and has not pitched since. He started a rehab assignment with Tucson, but was shut down with soreness in his shoulder. Owings played a few games at first base for Tucson, in order to get some game action.
Owings recently announced that he was giving up pitching, at least temporarily, in order to become a full-time hitter. Owings will play a little first, as well as left field. It has not been reported if the at-bats will come with AAA Tucson, or another minor league team. The Padres, for their part, seem to be on board with Owings’ decision.
Could Owings become the next Rick Ankiel, a pitcher who makes the full-time transition to a position player? It seems highly doubtful, as Ankiel has the athletic ability to play a strong center field, and Owings will be relegated to first. I do believe that Owings could become a Brooks Kieschnick type — a decent pinch-hitter, and a mediocre pitcher.
Kieschnick was once a top Cubs prospect, who flamed out. Kieschnick decided to become a pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2000′s, and hit 7 home runs in 2003, while throwing 53 innings for the Brewers.
Owings does have some pop in his bat, but I do not foresee him becoming anything more than he already is: mediocre. Sure, the power numbers look awesome, but look deeper into his offensive numbers, and you will find little reason for optimism. In those 219 career plate appearances, Owings has struck out a whopping 72 times, while only walking 8 times. Those numbers bring back nightmares of Kevin Kouzmanoff at his worst.
Sure, if Owings is devoting all of his time, perhaps his plate discipline improves, and maybe he will become a more well-rounded offensive player. Owings seems like a good man, and hopefully he returns to the Padres as a true dual threat — with the bat, and the arm.