When Alexandria, Virginia’s Barrel Bruisers first arrived in MAW last spring, most of the attention was on the team’s flame throwing ace Ryan Doeppel. This left the Bruisers’ second pitcher – Chris Owen – firmly in the shadows to the point of not even pitching in the first tournament. As the season progressed and Doeppel eventually left the Bruisers, Owen took on a more prominent role in the Bruisers’ rotation. Heading into 2018, he is poised to make the leap to dependable, multi-game tournament pitcher.
The tall right hander relies heavily on a big bending slider. The pitch improved steadily throughout the course of the 2017 MAW season and Owen continued to sharpen it during the CFOT Winter League. When commanded correctly, the pitch starts well behind the back of a right-handed hitter and sweeps all the way to the middle or even far-half of the target strike zone. Veteran Bill Owens – who has seen as many pitchers and pitches as anyone – commented last fall that it had been a long time since he had seen a big bending slider quite like Chris’. The movement and command of the pitch appear to improve when thrown at a moderate speed, but the athletic Owen has some velocity in reserve should he choose to call on it. In the CFOT winter league with a slightly shorter pitching distance, his velocity overwhelmed hitters on many occasions. Because of his size, he has a tendency to miss up with the pitch. If Owen can command the slider on a regular basis and move the pitch around the strike zone horizontally, he will be in line for a strong 2018. If he can find a consistent secondary offering, he has upper tier starter potential.
As a hitter, Owen feasted on lower level pitching last season but struggled at times against the mid-level and top-level pitchers in the region. Even when hits were hard to come by, Owen showed above average plate discipline and a willingness to take a free pass. His 49 walks last summer were third most in MAW behind his Bruiser teammate Jerry Hill (55) and the Stompers’ Paul Cooke (58). Although he only hit two homeruns in 2017, Owen has obvious power potential. Both of his homeruns last season came off Stompers’ left-hander Dan Isenberg. It will be interesting to see if that success translates to other southpaws as well.