The Red Sox have a slew of starting pitching prospects, and none excites more than Henry Owens. He might not end up being the best of the bunch, but the potential is there for him to be far superior to any other arm in Boston's deep system right now. Some of that potential showed on Thursday, in Owens' 2014 debut, when he threw six no-hit innings against Reading before rain cut the game short.
Owens was dominant, striking out nine batters against just two walks, with 69 percent of his pitches going for strikes. As efficiency and control have been his only significant issues to this point, seeing him perform well in both regards is comforting, even if it's just the one start. Seeing him give up no hits in addition to that is icing on the proverbial cake, albeit welcome icing.
Through 36-1/3 career innings at Double-A, Owens owns a 1.49 ERA with 55 strikeouts against 35 baserunners: 18 of them making it through hits, and 17 through walks. He needs to work on keeping his walk rate down, though, if he's striking out batters at the rate he has, he's still going to put plenty of separation between his punch out and free pass rates to get by. It's likely that he'll miss fewer bats as he continues to climb up the organizational ladder, however, so figuring out a way to reduce his walk totals is the most important thing he has left to do during his time in the minors.
He probably has plenty of time left there, too: he's all of 21 years old, and doesn't need to be added to the 40-man for Rule 5 protection until after the 2015 season. The Red Sox won't let him wait that long to see the majors, most likely, but with a stacked Triple-A rotation which already has plenty of 40-man arms on it, Boston's not going to crowd the picture even further if they don't have to. About the only way Owens is going to speed by the arms in front of him on the depth chart within the next year is for him to reach Triple-A and treat it like he has Double-A to this point. It's not an impossibility, but before he can even get a chance, space needs to open up there first. Let's remember, too, that he has all of seven starts at Double-A: it's not like he's dominated the level for a year or more. Patience is still encouraged at this point.