Prospect Owings patiently awaits turn in Arizona
Honing skills in AFL, shortstop knows he's considered D-backs future starter
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Owings is the first to admit that he needs to be patient if he is to achieve his goal of reaching the Major Leagues.
Having been in the Arizona Diamondbacks' Spring Training camp at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in 2011 and '12, and now playing for the Arizona Fall League's Salt River Rafters at the same facility, he knows that the top level is within his reach.
Almost from the time when he was the 41st overall pick in the compensation portion of the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Owings, now 21, has heard that he is Arizona's shortstop of the future.
He saw his window open a bit wider with this summer's trade of Stephen Drew to Oakland, but then watched the window close back up a bit with Arizona's recent acquisition of Cliff Pennington, also from Oakland.
The feeling is similar to when Owings steps into the batter's box.
"I have been anxious," he said. "I need to be more patient in that aspect. I have to not be in a rush to make things happen. I have to wait for my pitch instead of forcing things with the pitcher's pitch.
"Playing out here, all I can do is come out and try to get better every day. I know I'm not starting next season in the big leagues. I figure that when it happens, it happens."
Rafters manager Matt Williams, also the D-backs' third-base coach, acknowledges that Owings needs to cut down on his strikeouts. Owings struck out 130 times at Class A Advanced Visalia in 2011, and a combined 132 times for Visalia and Double-A Mobile in '12.
He does have some gap-to-gap, line-drive power. In his first 12 games, seven of his 11 hits were for extra bases -- six doubles and a triple. He had cut down on his strikeouts -- eight in 52 at-bats.
"If he can cut down on his strikeouts, I'm pretty sure that he can handle big league pitching," Williams said. "If you ask me where he would fit best [in the batting order], I'd say No. 2. You can do a lot of things from there."
Defense remains the primary factor for Owings being listed as the No. 5 prospect in the Arizona organization on MLB.com's Top Prospect List.
He showed why last week at Salt River Fields in a game against the Phoenix Desert Dogs.
Owings was the relay man on a hit into the left-field corner. He took the throw, turned and threw home in time to get the baserunner.
Later, with the bases loaded and nobody out for Phoenix, he turned to his right and stretched out to spear a line drive, and had the presence of mind to quickly throw to third. The throw missed doubling up the runner by only a fraction of a second. Owings then started an inning-ending double play, keeping the Desert Dogs off the board.
"Defensively, he is solid," Williams said. "He has good range both ways -- left and right. Overall, I would say that he's really close to being big league ready."
Owings played here in the Arizona Instructional League a year ago. Now he is in the palatial big league clubhouse. He said he wants to continue making strides as he did during the 2012 regular season. He will go home to South Carolina and return in January to prepare for Spring Training.
D-backs general manager Kevin Towers recently said that he expects Owings to be at Double-A and/or Triple-A Reno in 2013, then perhaps have a shot at becoming the starter for the big club in 2014.
That's all Owings can ask for. As he said, he needs to be patient.
Don Ketchum is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.