Henry Owens is off to a wonderful start for the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox Double-A affiliate. For the second year in a row, part of the credit could very well belong to Owens' weight training, as the lefty is getting less lanky by the season: the 6-foot-6 starter now weighs in at 215 pounds, according to a report by Tim Casey at Sports on Earth.
The feature itself doesn't focus too much on that fact, instead spending time talking about Owens' history and potential, but that little nugget is more significant than the article (which you should read) states. When Owens was drafted back in 2011, he weighed 180 pounds. When he joined the professional ranks at the start of 2012 as a 19-year-old, he was already 6-foot-6, but was still just 190 pounds. Last spring, it was announced that not only had Owens added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame, but it had brought him a few ticks on his fastball as well.
This year, the fastball velocity is the same, but he's put on another 10 pounds. Why does this matter, though? For one, additional muscle and strength should help Owens simply in terms of lasting deeper into games -- making 30-plus starts a year is tiresome, and a pitcher's body needs to be up the task. This also goes for his stuff, as if he's stronger, it's more likely he'll be able to retain velocity and bite on his pitches later in games, even as his pitch count climbs.
More specifically for Owens, though, is that it's easier to repeat mechanics when a pitcher is not all lank and limbs. Adding bulk isn't a cure-all for it: Anthony Ranaudo is listed at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, for instance, and continues to struggle with consistency in his mechanics and offerings. It can certainly help, though, and considering Owens was a rail who didn't always throw strikes as often as he should have, a little extra weight on his frame is likely a positive.
Owens walk rates did not improve with the added muscle a year ago, but he was able to throw 33-1/3 more innings in just three additional appearances without any fatigue setting in, either during the games themselves or by year's end. In fact, Owens was still punishing the opposition after a late-season promotion to Double-A Portland, where he closed out 2013 by striking out 46 batters in 30 innings and six starts, similar to his results to begin this year. The main difference is that, this time around, Owens is throwing a ton of strikes, and has issued just two walks in his first two starts, and against 18 strikeouts. If the added weight has done nothing other than help him repeat his mechanics more consistently, enabling him to throw more strikes, than it was worth every lifted weight this winter.
It'll be difficult to tell just how much this will or has helped Owens' development until later on in the year, however. If he continues to look strong even late into games and into the season, then it's likely helped. If he is able to jump up around 160 innings or more with no issues by year's end, then again, the added bulk likely did its job as well. If he continues to throw strikes at a high-60s percentage while avoiding walks to the degree he has in the past, then it's possible he's even hit his ideal weight for his motion and height.
What is known is that this is the kind of change to a player that isn't going to be picked up by an off-season prospect list, as it's based on what is known at the time. Don't be surprised to see Owens, who is still considered a mid-rotation arm by many, to have his ceiling jump up by the time the mid-season rankings come around, though, if his continued work in the weight room does what it was intended to do.