By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. –Curve third baseman Hunter Owen wasn’t known as a power hitter in college, but he’s developed into one on the professional level.
“In college, I think six homers was the most I ever had,” Owen, a product of Indiana State University, said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field, “so it’s been a weird transition, but I’m taking it in stride.”
Last season, at high-A Bradenton, Owen (5-11, 197) smacked 18 homers and drove in 60 runs in the Florida State League. His career-best 18 homers were second most in the Pirate system and the 60 RBIs were fourth-best in the organization.
“I’m not trying to do too much at the plate, just trying to put together good at-
bats,” he said. “I pick up little things here and there from everybody.”
He credits Curve hitting coach Jon Nunnally and speaks highly of Butch Wynegar, who coached him at Bradenton.
“Both smart guys, who have had a lot to do with it,” Owen said of his power. “Just picking up everything from college to pro ball has really helped me.”
Owen had a good start with the Curve. He was named Eastern League Player-of-the-Week for April 22-28 when he socked three homers, scored seven runs and had seven extra base hits in six games. He also finished among the league’s top three with three doubles, one triple, six RBIs and 10 hits over that stretch.
After starting the week 0-for-3, he went on a 10-for-21 tear with five consecutive two-hit games. In his last five games of the week, he had at least one extra base hit and one RBI.
A native of Evansville, Ind., and the Pirates 25th round pick in 2016, Owen was among the EL leaders after the first 22 games with 16 runs scored, six homers and .671 slugging percentage, 18 RBIs, 25 hits and 1.071 OPS.
It was Owen’s third “player” award. He was honored by the Florida State League last Aug. 20-26 and was the New York-Penn League recipient July 18-24, 2016 while playing for short-season West Virginia. Owen also was selected to the NY-Penn all-stars.
“I didn’t know what to expect going into pro ball,” he said. “I knew what my strengths and weaknesses were and I tried to capitalize on my strengths and work on my weaknesses.”
Drafted as an outfielder, Owen moved to third a couple years ago and says he just goes about his business as best he can.
“You have no control over things like promotions so I just go out and do my best every day,” he said. “A positive attitude is the key to getting better as you go.”
He’s been impressed with the caliber of play and players in the Eastern League.
“There’s an unbelievable jump from high-A to Double-A as far as talent,” Owen noted. “Routine plays are rarely missed and the pitching has really tightened up with guys who have control over two or three pitches.”
Curve manager Michael Ryan has been impressed with what he’s seen so far.
“Six home runs in April and it’s a short month,” Ryan said. “Any time you can hit five in a month is pretty impressive. He’s come out of the gates and the power is for real. He does a great job, does his work in the cage and takes batting practice serious.”
Ryan said there were concerns about Owen’s defense, but he’s been pleased with it.
“He’s playing defense as well as he’s been hitting,” Ryan offered. “It’s been a great month for him.
“Ke’Bryan Hayes was special,” Ryan said of the Curve’s third baseman last year. “But Hunter is putting in the work, takes pride in his defense and has been playing really well. It’s comfortable with him at third.”