The Indianapolis Indians may have two future major league third basemen on their roster at the moment.
While Ke’Bryan Hayes has years worth of buzz around him, don’t sleep on Hunter Owen. The 25 year old former 25th round pick has been one of the best hitting prospects in the Pirates’ farm system this year.
After leading the Bradenton Marauders in home runs (18) and RBI (60) in 2018, Owen got the call to AA to start the year in Altoona. He took off there, clubbing 15 homers with a .935 OPS in 268 plate appearances.
Owen was promoted to AAA Indianapolis in late June and has recorded an .832 OPS in his first 16 games played there.
This power surge is not completely unexpected for Owen. He recorded 27 extra-base hits and a .527 slugging percentages as a junior for Indiana State in 2016, but almost all of those hits were for doubles with a metal bat. Now, he is tied for the third most home runs in the Pirates’ farm system this year with 18, trailing only Mason Martin and Will Craig.
“There were glimpses of [power] here and there in college, but more than anything, I was a low line drive guy and had a little bit gap to gap power,” said Owen. “It’s kind of crazy the way it’s all worked out, how I’ve developed into a little bit of a power hitter.”
While he has hit well at every stop in his rise to AAA, 2019 has been a breakout campaign for Owen. While he credits his success to a simple approach and good preparation, he also says he benefited greatly from working with new Altoona Curve hitting coach Jon Nunnally.
“[He] just really understands me, understands my swing,” Owen said. “We had a lot conversations. I feel like it’s really helped me develop as a hitter.”
One frequent point of conversation was getting Owen’s hands through the zone, specifically his top hand.
“The way my swing works and the way I’m physically made up, when I think about trying to lift the ball, put the ball in the air, it works against me,” Owen said. “Being strong and confident in that top hand, working down through the ball with my top hand I feel like has been a real key for me.”
“Working down” does not mean hitting the ball on the ground. On the contrary, Owen had one of the best fly ball percentages in all of AA baseball (46.6%).
Of course, Indianapolis already had a pretty good third baseman when Owen was promoted. As a result, Owen has gotten most of his playing time away from the hot corner, playing eight games at first base and four in right field for the Indians thus far.
Owen was asked to play multiple positions in college, so he knows what it’s like to bounce around the diamond.
“I was the jack of all trades, master of none,” Owen said.
Speaking of his college days, this is Owen’s first time playing ball in his home state since leaving school. He has been getting plenty of visitors, ranging from his family and friends to a janitor from his Alma Mater.
“It is awesome. It is super, super special,” Owen said. “I’m very blessed to have a strong support system.”
My full interview with Hunter Owen is available to listen to on The River Blast Podcast. You can follow Hunter on twitter at www.twitter.com/hunter_owen11