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Chris Owings: 2015 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop Sleeper


 

Multiple-Position Eligibility For A Middle Infield Sleeper

With only two years of experience and 393 plate appearances (PA) in the major leagues, Chris Owings has taken the starting shortstop position from Cliff Pennington. Naturally, this will increase his fantasy value significantly in 2015 as will his dual eligibility in both SS and 2B.

In his limited 332 PA last year, about half of a full season, Owings showed decent speed with eight stolen bases. And during his minor league stint with the Arizona Diamondback’s triple-A affiliate the Reno Aces in 2013, Owings had 20 SB in 575 PA.

In 2014, only nine MLB shortstops had 20 or more SB in 2014-- and only six of those were also eligible at 2B. Owings' speed will be a fantasy asset, but will also be an important factor at the MLB level due to his 44.9% ground ball percentage. For most hitters a 44% GB percentage is a negative statistic, but if Owings can flash the same speed, that stat will sink into irrelevance.

 

What To Expect in 2015

Complementing his speed is an average power skill set, as Owings hit six HR last year and had a .145 ISO. These numbers do not blow anyone away, however what they do is provide a boost in fantasy relevance. For example only 10 shortstops last year hit 12 or more HR, and only 15 second basemen did the same (five of which are tied at 12 home runs). Conceivably, Owings could hit around that number if he gets twice as many ABs this year.

My favorite statistic, and perhaps the best to support Owings being a sleeper, is his 89.3% Z-Contact%. This statistic calculates the percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown inside the strike zone. In 2014, Owings was thrown a fastball 56.1% of the time. Considering the other 43.9% of pitches thrown at Owings were off speed pitches, Owings seems to have adapted rather well to pitching at the big league level.

One of Owing’s downsides will be his BB/K ratio. Even in the minor leagues, Owings has never sported over a 0.60 BB/K ratio with a single squad (excluding 10 PA with a Diamondbacks minor league team in 2014). To become a more productive and consistent fantasy player, Owings will have to raise his BB/K ratio.

 

In Summary

Everything considered, Owings has potential to be a top ten player at both the SS and 2B positions. His speed and power combination brings needed value at two shallow positions, especially with leagues that have a middle infield slot. He’ll also with the new-guy, fantasy-unknown discount. If he can maintain his SB and HR paces from last year, or even improve on them, he can develop into a solid middle infield option in most leagues. His multi-position eligibility will provide flexibility for your lineups, while he provides decent fantasy production compared to his peers at the classically thin SS and 2B positions.