The No. 4 pick that got away: Adam Loewen
Since we just finished up with the draft and the Orioles selection of high-schooler Dylan Bundy with the fourth overall pick, it’s worth looking at what another former No. 4 overall choice of the Orioles is doing.
You might want to hide the women and children before you look at this. It isn’t pretty.
Adam Loewen, whom the Orioles selected fourth overall in 2002 as a can’t miss pitcher, is now tearing it up as an outfielder for the Las Vegas 51s, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Keep in mind that Las Vegas is a hitters’ heaven and that offensive numbers are often inflated in the Pacific Coast League in general. Still, here’s what Loewen has accomplished in his first 55 games this year: .324 average, .387 on-base percentage, .590 slugging. He’s hit 22 doubles, two triples and 10 homers while driving in 42 runs and scoring 26. The right fielder also has four stolen bases.
In case you had forgotten, a little background: The 6-foot-6, left-handed Loewen was 8-8 with a 5.38 ERA in 35 games with the Orioles from 2006 to 2008. But he was felled by stress fractures in his left elbow. He could have tried surgery again in 2008, but there were no guarantees he’d ever be healthy. So he decided to try his hand as a hitter.
The Orioles took him off their 40-man roster in the 2008 offseason, expecting to re-sign him for the hitting experiment. But he received a call from one of his heroes as a kid, Cito Gaston, who suggested Loewen sign with the Blue Jays.
Loewen did on October 24, 2008, leaving the Orioles a little bitter, since they had spent so much time and resources (including a $4.02 million contract when they signed him) on Loewen during his pitching career. But, honestly, it seemed like such a long shot that he would make it back to the big leagues that his departure wasn’t a huge deal – even to a division rival.
Well now Loewen appears to be on the precipice of the majors. In fact, he might already be up, but the Blue Jays don’t have a pressing need in the outfield. They could, however, promote him to platoon at DH if they ever soured on Edwin Encarnacion.
The Toronto Sun’s great baseball writer Bob Elliott (a Hall of Famer in the near future) talked to several Canadian baseball people who knew Loewen way back when and passed on the following info and quotes to me. And I pass them to you.
Here you go:
“What he’s so close to accomplishing now, getting back to the majors as a hitter, is more impressive than going in the first round as a pitcher,” said Walt Burrows, Canadian director of the Major League Scouting Bureau. “It’s so much easier going from hitter to a pitcher.”
“Kudos to the Jays for giving him the chance,” Burrows said. “He wasn’t successful right away, he hung with it, especially going from the majors to Dunedin (the Jays’ minor league facility).”
Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams, coached Loewen for three years with the junior team.
“He was the best high school player in the world,” said Hamilton. “I truly believe he would have been a first rounder as a hitter and position player if he decided not to pitch in high school.
He played the game with an incredible ease.”
At the 2002 World Junior championships, Loewen played right field -- the Orioles did not want him to pitch -- and hit .713.
Burrows’ job is to examine and dissect a player, grade him and place an overall future potential (OFP) number to give to his bosses.
“I’m not telling you what the number was, but it’s the highest I’ve ever put on a player,” Burrows said. “Adam was 6-foot-5, 215 pounds out of high school, a good hockey and
volleyball player, very athletic. It’s really rare to see guys with speed, size and strength. He was blessed.”
From the time he came to Baltimore as a new draftee, Loewen was a respectful, nice kid. I know he didn’t leave on the greatest of terms, but it is hard not to pull – at least a little -- for his comeback story.
Do you agree?