Pittsburgh Pirates Grapefruit League: Chris Owings Off to a Strong Start
Looking to crack the team's Opening Day roster, non-roster invitee Chris Owings is off to a strong start in Grapefruit League action
On February 2nd, Chris Owings signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As you would expect this minor league contract included an invite to MLB camp and gave Owings a legitimate chance to crack the team's Opening Day roster.
Helping Owings' cause of making the Opening Day roster with the Pirates is the team's need for a backup middle infielder. In an ideal scenario they would find a backup middle infielder capable of playing shortstop tht is a right-handed hitter. Owings checks off both of these boxes.
Looking to crack a team's Opening Day roster as a non-roster invitee for a fourth consecutive season, Owings has been helping his own cause thus far this spring. While he has never been known as a plus hitter in the majors he is off to a strong start at the plate this spring.
In 2464 career plate appearances in the majors Owings has hit for a .239/.287/.366 slash line to go with a 69 wRC+ and an OPS+ of 72. Last season, he hit .107/.254/.143 with a 27 wRC+ and 17 OPS+ in 68 PAs with the Baltimore Orioles.
This spring, however, Owings has hit for a .286/.500/.857 slash line through 10 PAs. He has hit a home run and a double, while drawing three walks to go with just one strikeout. While it's just 10 PAs and week's worth of action, Owings, who likely entered the spring with a leg up on the competition for a utiltiy roster spot, as done all he can and more to lockdown a roster spot.
All baseball teams love players with positional flexibility, but this is something that Derek Shelton has proven esepcially fond of during his time as Pirate manager. This is something that Owings brings to the table and something else that should work in his favor in his effort to crack the team's Opening Day roster.
Owings can play third base, shortstop, second base, and the corner outfield spots. He has also played center field in his career. Owings is truly a Swiss Army Knife capable of playing all over the diamond.
Now, if Owings were to make the team's Opening Day roster a 40-man roster move will need to be made. However, this would not be difficult to do. Max Kranick will need placed on the 60-day injured list at some point, and players such as Ryan Vilade and Duane Underwood Jr. are candidates to be designated for assignment. Room can easily be made on the 40-man roster.