ALTOONA, Pa. — Through 31 games, third baseman Hunter Owen is leading Altoona in home runs (7), runs batted in (36), on-base percentage (.352), slugging percentage (.565) and batting average (.287).
A confident, structured approach at the plate has helped the Indiana State product get off and running to a hot start this season.
“Confidence and a chip on my shoulder,” Owen said. “You can ask my family, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, always been told I wouldn’t amount to much athletically and I just continue to prove people wrong.”
There’s a lot to prove when you’re selected in the 25th round like Owen was in 2016 and the confidence he’s shown on the field has caught the eye of Curve manager Michael Ryan.
“Confidence. He’s got some big time power and it’s starting to play in the game. He’s fun to watch right now,” Ryan said.
It’s not just Ryan or those who venture to PNG Field to see Altoona play regularly who have noticed Owen’s performance but those around the league as he won the Eastern League Player of the Week last week for his performance.
“It’s awesome. This is an unbelievable league and to do it in Double-A, it’s pretty incredible,” Owen said. “Granted it’s early and there’s still a lot of season left, I’m not trying to get too high or get to low, just trying to show up everyday with a working mentality.”
This year has been the reverse of what Owen went through during the first few months of this season in Bradenton as he was mired in a slump early as he adjusted to the upper echelon of Single-A baseball.
“Last year, I fell into the first two months, I was struggling a little bit and not really being comfortable in the box with my set up, with my timing, with anything,” Owen said. “I think that working on my timing and a consistent spot every time I’m in the box was a key thing to work on in the off-season and this spring. I think I’ve nailed it down and been consistent with it.”
For as much success as the Evansville, IN native has had, there’s still a lot of work that needs done on his game to help him continue to have success.
“Honestly, in all aspects I’m definitely a work in progress. I’m not the person that’s content with where I’m at whether defensively, offensively, on the bases, anything like that,”
According to Owen, his play at third base is the weakest spot of his game and the area where he can most improve as the season rolls on.
“Defensively, that’s not really my strong suit. Granted I’ve had a pretty good, successful time at third base recently,” Owen said. “And definitely on the base path, I think I’m capable of doing a lot more on the base paths than I’ve shown.”
The season is still in its early stages and plenty of crazy things can happen as each game is played but his manager is encouraged by his play thus far. Ryan did suggest the mental game as an area of focus for Owen to improve in.
“Taking the next step mentally and expecting the baseball on defense and understanding what pitchers are trying to do to him in different situations with guys on, with nobody on, Ryan said. “It’s going to get to the point where other teams aren’t going to let him beat them and it’s going to be important for him to zone in on his zone and do some damage with it.”
As for Owen’s approach to the rest of the season, it’s much like the rest of his game, confident and with a chip on his shoulder.
“Controlling things I can control,” Owen said. “Showing up to the field everyday and going through my preparation work, going through a consistent routine, just keeping that chip on my shoulder mentality.”
The key for Owen though is to take each pitch, each at bat, each play in the field and each game one at a time.
“Not looking too far ahead. There’s a lot of ball to be played, so I think just showing up every day and staying consistent with what I’m doing,”
The approach and confidence is paying off for Altoona’s third baseman but when you’ve got something to prove in an organization which is loaded at the third base position, staying confident is key in growing in the field and at the plate to get to the next level.
CURVE’S TOP HITTERS
Jason Delay, C – Delay has started the month of May on a hot streak going 9-for-16 with a home run, four walks, four RBIs and three runs in three games.
Bralin Jackson, OF — Through the first seven games in May, Jackson is hitting .454 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
CURVE’S TOP PITCHERS
Top starting performance: Scooter Hightower vs. Erie on April 30: 6.0 innings pitched, one run on six hits and two strikeouts. Hightower is 1-3 with a 5.52 ERA on the season.
Top reliever: Beau Sulser. Sulser appeared in two games over the course of the week and yielded only a run in his two outings. The right hander allowed the single run on a home run against Bowie, a game in which he threw 2.1 innings in relief and struck out two. Sulser’s ERA on the season currently sits at 0.53.
THE ROSTER MOVES/INJURY UPDATE
Here are the roster moves over the last week:
5/4: LHP Sean Keselica promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. RHP Blake Cederlind assigned to Altoona. OF Ryan Peurifoy assigned to extended spring training. INF Alfredo Reyes assigned to Altoona.
5/6: LHP Jake Brentz promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. LHP Sean Brady signed as MiLB free agent; assigned to Altoona.
Altoona went 5-3 over the course of the last week taking down the likes of Erie, Richmond and Bowie.
After being no-hit by the first pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Casey Mize, the Curve took down the Seawolves to win 5-3 the following night.
Following a loss to Erie on Wednesday, the Altoona offense came alive against the Flying Squirrels during their four-game series over the weekend. The Curve offense scored nine, 10 and eight runs respectively before being shut out Sunday to avoid the sweep.
Altoona fell 10-5 to Bowie Monday night but found their way back to the win column with a 3-2 victory Tuesday to get back to above .500 on the season.
ALTOONA FUN THING
It was only a week ago when Altoona was dominated by a strong pitching staff against Erie and the schedule looks to have the same pitching lineup when the Seawolves return to PNG Field this weekend. Slated to pitch will be Casey Mize and Matt Manning, who was a first round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.