With 68 starts and nearly 500 innings under his belt over his six-year MLB career, I don’t think anyone will have any confusion that Micah Owings was a pitcher first, even if he’s always shown good skills with the bat.
That all changed last year, though, when the 30-year old found himself looking for a change while rehabbing a forearm strain that caused him to miss almost the entire season with the San Diego Padres. When he reports to the Washington Nationals for Spring Training in a few weeks, he will officially do so as a first baseman.
It’s a remarkable story for Owings, who had never truly excelled on the mound at the big league level. He has accumulated just 2.2 fWAR over his career, and owns a 4.86/1.40 ERA/WHIP, along with a 1.40 K/BB, treading the line between pedestrian and poor.
You couldn’t say that about him as a hitter, though. Sure, the sample size is small considering how many years he’s been in the league, but Owings has been a 3.1 fWAR player as a hitter, with nine home runs in 219 PA, and a .283/.310/.502 triple slash that earned him a Silver Slugger award in 2007. He doesn’t know how to draw walks (3.7 BB%) and he strikes out way too much (32.9%), but he can hit, and he can hit for power.
If Owings can show that he can still do so at a high level, there might just be a chance that he could be doing that off the bench for the Nationals next year. There’s some history there, too: team GM Mike Rizzo was the then-scouting director for the Arizona Diamondbacks team that drafted Owings in the third round in 2005. That said, the former pitcher will go in to the camp on a recently-signed minor league deal, and has a long way to go before he’ll end up on the Nationals roster.
Unless something truly unexpected happens, the minors await. If Owings can find a second-wind in his career there though, and show that he can smash? Well, there’s always room for power bats who can come through in a pinch, even on a stacked squad like the Nationals.
For a very long time, Micah Owings was the unique pitcher who could smash the ball. In 2013, he could end up being a slugger off the bench…who could occasionally pitch, too.