Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Three Late Round Picks Off to Strong Starts
By Noah Wright
Jase Bowen was selected in the 11th round of the 2019 draft. A high school draftee, Bowen did little in 2021, his first extended look against professional opponents. He did have 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases, showing some power and speed, but he still ended the season with an OPS of just .693. The following season, Bowen improved to a .256/.325/.444 line, 111 wRC+, 17 home runs, and 25 stolen bases.
Bowen, who ended the 2022 season poorly with Greenboro, returned to the affiliate to start the year. So far, it looks like the utility prospect has started to turn things around, batting .274/.355/.526 with a .392 wOBA and 130 wRC+. Once again, he is hitting for power and showing off his speed with a .253 isolated slugging percentage and five stolen bases in 23 games and 103 plate appearances.
Overall, it's been a very solid start to 2023, but there are some red flags. The first is his 29% strikeout rate. Bowen has always been a high strikeout batter, and he's only gotten worse this year. Last year his strikeout rate came in at 27.6%. His walk rate has increased from 8.2% to 9.3%, however, so at least there's that. Bowen is also rocking a .345 batting average on balls in play.
Now, granted, Bowen has shown he's a BAbip merchant. Last year, he had a .350 BAbip at Bradenton before getting promoted to Greensboro. A high batting average on balls in play isn't atypical for him, which is something you have to take into account when examining BAbip. Plus, he has a 31.3% line drive rate, which has only fueled this number in a small sample size.
A lot of the value Bowen brings is in his versatility. Bowen can play both corner infield positions, second base, and all outfield positions. He can basically play wherever he's asked to. Combined with his power and speed, Bowen is certainly one of the more interesting players in the system.
There are still real concerns about Bowen's long-term ability to hit. A 30.1% striekout rate is a tad worrying. Combined with his high BAbip (even if he is a BAbip merchant), there's reason to be skeptical. However, if Bowen can prevent the strikeouts from overwhelming him, he could be a solid future utility man who can provide a dozen home runs and stolen bases.