- Full name Henry Jay Owens
- Born 04/23/1979 in Miami, FL
- Profile Ht.: 6'2" / Wt.: 220 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Barry
- Debut 07/07/2006
Organization Prospect Rankings
Owens has come a long way from his days as a backup college catcher at Miami's Barry University. Intelligent and coachable, he still has thoughts of a career in medicine, but baseball should pay the bills for a while longer. After the Pirates originally signed him as a nondrafted free agent, the Mets claimed him in the Triple-A phase of the 2004 Rule 5 draft and gave him a brief taste of the majors in 2006. He got his big break when his hometown Marlins acquired him and Matt Lindstrom last offseason in exchange for Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick--a deal that heavily favors Florida thus far. Owens opened the year on the Marlins' big league roster and worked his way into the closer's role when Jorge Julio flopped, but elbow issues forced him to the disabled list. He made several abortive attempts to return to the mound before finally shutting it down. Before getting hurt, Owens showed a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 96 mph. He creates good deception with an unusual delivery and a short, quick arm action. He also has a sweeping slider and has worked to add a splitter to his arsenal. He also can fine-tune his command and control. Owens should be ready for the start of spring training, where he'll compete with Lindstrom for primary setup chores behind new closer Kevin Gregg.
A backup catcher in college, Owens decided to delay his plan of going to medical school to give pitching a shot as a pro. He never got past Class A with the Pirates, so the Mets nabbed him in Triple-A phase of the 2004 Rule 5 draft and added him to their 40-man roster after the 2005 season. He came to Florida with righthander Matt Lindstrom after the 2006 season in a deal that sent lefthanders Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick to New York. Though he missed three weeks of 2006 due to elbow tenderness, he was impressive enough that he earned a spot on Team USA's Olympic qualifying team. He had three saves in the tournament, including the win over Cuba, and was effective over the winter in the Dominican League as well. Owens dominated Double-A on the strength of his lively 94 mph fastball that touches 96. His velocity plays up because he hides the ball well behind a funky delivery and has a short, quick arm action. He falls off to the first-base side of the mound in his finish, but his command is still solid. He has made major strides with his slider, a twoplane breaker that he throws at 83-84 mph. Owens is also adding a split-finger fastball to his repertoire. Though he was roughed up in his brief big league exposure, Owens has shown the ability to make hitters miss at the upper levels of the minors. He should win a spot in the Marlins bullpen in spring training.
A backup catcher at NCAA Division II Barry (Fla.), Owens put his medical-school plans on hold when the Pirates signed him as a nondrafted free agent and immediately converted him to the mound. The Mets took him in the Triple-A Rule 5 draft at the 2004 Winter Meetings, and they added him to the 40-man roster after his first season in the organization. Owens stands out for his arm speed, which generates fastballs that run from the low to mid-90s and are lethal when he keeps them down in the strike zone. His slider and his command are fringy, however. If he can refine his slider, it could mean a quick ascent through the upper minors. Owens will move up to Double-A this year.
Owens truly has been a diamond in the rough. He was a catcher at NCAA Division II Barry when the Pirates signed him as a nondrafted free agent in 2001. They loved his strong arm and immediately converted him into a pitcher. Owens has dominated ever since and led Williamsport in saves last season. His fastball has been clocked as high as 98 mph and routinely sits at 95, though it will sometimes dip to 91 when his mechanics break down. He likes the challenge of closing games. Owens often short-arms the ball and his delivery needs work, not surprising for a pitcher with so little experience. His curveball tends to be too flat and he might be better served learning a slider. Owens is an intriguing case as he has as much raw talent as anyone in the system. He has "future closer" stamped all over him but is unpolished on the mound. He won't be rushed.
Minor League Top Prospects
Owens was signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Division II Barry (Fla.) University in 2001. A catcher in college, he moved to the mound because his big, strong body and cannon arm intrigued the Pirates. He made major strides in instructional league and extended spring training before showcasing the best fastball in the NY-P. "He was up to a cool 98 mph, just pouring it in there," one American League scout said of Owens. He pitched between 91-98 mph and averaged 96 with his four-seamer in most outings. Owens has been able to shed the short arm action catchers use to get rid of the ball quickly, and he gets good extension out front. While his lively fastball has good movement, he's working on tightening his slurvy breaking ball, which too often arrives on a flat plane.