The Pirates might be starting to see their new strategy toward hitting for power translating over to the minors, at least if the April player of the month race is any indication. The top contenders all had strong power production, fueling good offensive numbers, which made this a close race. In the end, Hunter Owen was named the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month in April for his strong start to the year.
Owen hit for a .313/.380/.663 line in 92 plate appearances, with seven homers. Owen has always shown a lot of raw power, and has seen that translate over to games the last two years. He hit 11 homers in 291 at-bats in 2017 in low-A, and 18 in 401 at-bats last year in high-A. His current pace would be 32 homers in a 400 at-bat season, which is impressive when also considering he’s moving up to a harder level, and one that is one of the biggest challenges for hitters.
It wasn’t just power that fueled Owen’s success. He also hit for average and got on base at a good rate, increasing his walk rate to 7.3%, up from 4.3% last year. The downside to this is that he’s striking out at a 31.3% rate, which is also an increase over last year’s numbers, which could cause some concern going forward.
Owen’s high average was a result of a .420 BABIP, which isn’t sustainable, and almost 100 points higher than his .322 BABIP last year. The average should drop going forward, and will drop far if he maintains the current strikeout rate. He’s going to need to find a way to maintain his power, while cutting down on the strikeouts and maintaining his current walk rate. That’s especially important when considering that his defense won’t keep him at third, and he’ll eventually move to a position where his offense will drive all of his value.
Owen beat out Dylan Busby, who had similar issues with strikeouts, but better power numbers and a higher walk rate. He also beat out Bryan Reynolds, who would have won if we counted MLB playing time. There was also an encouraging start to the season from Lolo Sanchez in Greensboro, who hit for some power while maintaining a good average and OBP. Here are the stats for those four players.
PLAYERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL
Indianapolis – Bryan Reynolds, OF (.367/.446/.735, 57 PA, 5 HR)
Altoona – Hunter Owen, 3B (.313/.380/.663, 92 PA, 7 HR)
Bradenton – Dylan Busby, 3B (.229/.368/.657, 87 PA, 8 HR)
Greensboro – Lolo Sanchez, OF (.337/.398/.554, 95 PA, 2 HR)