Path of the Pros: Micah Owings
Two-way talent 'refused to lose' in the Minor Leagues
Micah Owings' positive attitude and hard-working approach have not only led to success as a Major League pitcher but also as a hitter.
Owings entered the 2005 Draft as an intriguing two-way prospect. He was coming off a season at Tulane University in which he went 12-4 with a 3.26 ERA and a team-leading 135 strikeouts.
Perhaps more impressively, Owings split time at first base and designated hitter, leading the Green Wave with 18 homers and 63 RBIs. He led Conference USA in slugging percentage, was named league MVP and helped Tulane reach the College World Series.
Tulane's Rick Jones heaped praise on Owings, calling that 2005 season the greatest by any player he's ever coached.
"With the limited amount of scholarships we have, a two-way player is such a valuable thing to have," Jones said. "Brian Bogusevic (the Astros' first-round pick in 2005) was also a two-way player -- one guy would be on the mound and the other would bat cleanup.
"For Micah, as many two-way players as I've had, I've never had one as good as he was. With no disrespect to Alex Gordon, I felt [Owings] should have been the [Golden Spikes Award winner]. It was just a great thrill for me to get a chance to watch him."
Owings was selected by the Diamondbacks in the third round. Upon signing, he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen at Class A Advanced Lancaster in the hitter-friendly California League. He went 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 16 games, striking out 30 batters over 22 1/3 innings.
Owings started the 2006 season at Double-A Tennessee of the Southern League. A fast start there earned him a promotion to Triple-A Tucson, where he ran off 10 consecutive wins and subsequently caught the attention of pitching coach Mike Parrott.
"The one thing that I've always said Micah has is some intangible things that you can't really teach or coach," Parrott said. "He had a great desire to win and did not accept losing. He probably wasn't the best pitcher ... probably didn't have the best stuff in the league, but what he did have was that he refused to lose.
"He's a tough-minded kid, he was one of those guys that was going to give you everything he had on every pitch he threw. Even when he didn't have his best stuff, he never thought he was going to lose. He didn't accept losing."
Owings finished his first full season with a combined record of 16-2 and a 3.32 ERA over 162 2/3 innings, numbers good enough to earn the Diamondbacks' Minor League Player of the Year award.
His 2006 end-of-year award ended up being the culmination of his short, but dominant Minor League career. The big right-hander made the most out of an invitation to Spring Training the following season and was named Arizona's fifth starter by manager Bob Melvin.
Owings justified Melvin's faith with a solid rookie campaign. He won his Major League debut on April 5, tossing five shutout innings against the Nationals. He finished the season 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA and 106 strikeouts over 152 2/3 innings.
Not bad for a rookie. But Owings may have been more impressive at the plate. He became the first pitcher since Whitey Ford in 1963 to record two four-hit games in a season, including a two-homer, six-RBI performance against the Braves on Aug. 18.
The Georgia native also became the first rookie pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 to win a Silver Slugger award, hitting .333 with four homers and 15 RBIs in only 60 at-bats.
The average was the fourth-highest by a pitcher since the introduction of the designated hitter in 1973.
"He was respected for how he competed and the way he handled himself," Parrott said. "You never had to worry about Micah doing anything to embarrass himself or the organization."
2005: After being drafted in the third round, Owings went 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 16 games out of the bullpen for Class A Advanced Lancaster.
2006: Owings was 6-2 with a 2.88 ERA for Double-A Tennessee before a promotion to Triple-A Tucson. There, he went 10-0 in 15 starts. He also batted .362 with a homer and 13 RBIs in 58 at-bats across both levels.
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.