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Braves prospect watch: Breakout candidate Tyler Owens

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Let’s start digging deep into some Atlanta Braves prospects who could be poised for a big step forward when baseball resumes.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Minor League Baseball season, much like its MLB counterpart, is currently on hold. This is the perfect time to take some deep dives on some prospects we are pretty excited about here at Talking Chop.

Now, how much we’ll get to see from some of these players in 2020 is still up in the air, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get you up to speed on some you absolutely should know. Today, let’s turn our attention to the exciting right-hander, Tyler Owens.

Braves RHP prospect Tyler Owens: The skinny

Owens played his high school ball at Trinity Catholic in Florida. The righty had a big fastball, reported in the mid-90s and hitting as high as 98 pre-draft with a slider our own Matt Powers saw as a future strength. That said, Owens’ third pitch (a changeup) was not where it needed to be, something that can be said about plenty a prep teenage arm.

So, how were the Braves able to snag Owens in the 13th round of the 2019 MLB draft with that kind of big velocity that so many teams have come to love? For one, his size. Owens is listed below 6-foot — 5’10 to be precise — and we know that often means a pitcher isn’t built to be a starter. Secondly, he had an unconventional delivery, one in which he almost wound up in extra-slow motion before unleashing his pitch with a bit of a whip of the arm. Here, take a look in this video from Vincent Cervino on YouTube.

The Braves came big and signed Owens to $547.5K — the largest deal in the later rounds — to keep Owens from Florida (and Florida State as well).

What we saw from Owens in Year 1

Well, it was good, let’s say that. We here at Talking Chop were so impressed by the 18-year-old’s debut that we ranked him the 20th-best prospect this preseason. He didn’t even have a chance to get comfortable at low Rookie ball — tossing four innings while allowing just one hit, one walk and striking out four in the GCL — before jumping to Danville. Obviously, the Braves liked what they saw as well.

Owens showed well against some more experienced bats in the Appalachian League. He made eight starts, allowing 12 runs in 23.1 innings pitched, striking out 28. Were there concerns? Sure: he walked 11 batters and allowed two home runs. But there were positives as well.

The righty looks to be evolving his delivery and that showed in added velocity, with reports of him touching 99 in his Braves debut. He also finished strongly, tossing four innings (his longest outing of the season) of shutout ball on August 16 before closing out his 2019 with three innings of shutout ball.

Why we’re excited about Owens in 2020

A 99 mile-per-hour heater is enough to get anyone excited, right? But there is plenty to like. Owens showed improvement as a hard-throwing 18-year-old, limiting advanced hitting to a .198 average against and producing a very favorable ground-ball rate of almost 50 percent. His control was a bit worrisome, landing about 50 percent of his pitches for strikes, but this was also a teenager competitively throwing deep into August for the first time in his life.

Owens just turned 19 in January, meaning we get one more full year in his teens, most likely in Rome as our own Garrett Spain projects. There is little reason to expect he’ll be a fast climb up the ladder, especially if the Braves want to fine tune the delivery and see if the change continues to improve to a usable pitch. Owens could go the Freddy Tarnok/ Victor Vodnik route of starting in the bullpen in three to four inning appearances before hitting the rotation midseason. Either way, we’re excited for what’s in store.