Henry Owens’ career has not gone as many foresaw it progressing just a few years ago. While he always had some problems with control, there was enough potential and youth to believe he could figure it out and become a mid-rotation starter by the time he reached his early-to-mid-20’s. Unfortunately, he has stalled out in Triple-A over the last few seasons and now he’s struggling badly enough that he’s being sent back down to Double-A Portland to try and get back on track.
The Red Sox are moving Henry Owens to Double A. 48 walks in his last 47 1/3 innings, including 8 BBs in 2 of last 3 starts.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) June 26, 2017
As Speier points out in the tweet above, Owens has had some major problems with control of late. Of course, it’s not only of late. For the entire season in Pawtucket, he’s walked 60 batters in 69 innings. While it’s nice that he’s also racked up 72 strikeouts in that time, the control just isn’t going to cut it.
This has been a longtime battle for the young southpaw, and he’s worked to address it in many ways. Earlier this season, for example, he tried a change in his delivery to add more precision to his work on the mound, but clearly it hasn’t done the trick.
It’s unclear at this point if this is a long-term demotion or if the hope is that he’ll be able to gain some confidence in a couple of starts against weaker competition and then try to carry that confidence into a promotion back to Pawtucket. My guess would be the latter, but either way it’s clear that he is moving further down the rotation depth chart. I’ve said a few times recently that I believe Jalen Beeks is a better option in the majors right now than Owens, and this demotion only solidifies that belief.
It’s worth noting that Owens is still only 24, so he’s not so old that one should completely abandon hope that he can be a useful major leaguer. With that being said, he hasn’t shown anything in recent years to earn that kind of trust. One has to wonder if, in the event this stint in Portland doesn’t go well, the Red Sox will try to work him out of the bullpen. He doesn’t really have the stuff that one generally expects to play up in shorter stints, but we’ve seen pitchers improve their control in that role before. Whatever the change may be, something’s got to give if Owens is ever going to have anything close to the major-league career many had hoped for just a few years ago.