D-backs expect spring showdown between Owings, Didi
GM Towers thinks competition will bring the best out of highly regarded shortstops
ORLANDO, Fla. -- If Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius are both still D-backs after the offseason, general manager Kevin Towers said he expects there to be a spirited Spring Training battle for the starting-shortstop slot.
Towers said he didn't have a preference.
"Let them fight it out. We like both of them a lot," Towers said here this week as he began the process of perusing the market at the General Managers Meetings. "I love the competition in Spring Training. Patrick Corbin emerged last year. We didn't say anyone was the frontrunner. He took the bull by the horns. I want C.O. and Didi to be in the same situation. Just because Didi was there all year, I don't want him to think he's the everyday shortstop."
The left-handed Corbin went into this past Spring Training looking to earn a spot at the end of the rotation. He won that job and ultimately emerged as an All-Star and the best starting pitcher on the staff with a 14-8 record and 3.41 ERA in 32 starts. Gregorius and Owings opened the season in the Minors.
Gregorius was obtained from the Reds this past Dec. 11 in a three-team trade that included the Indians, costing the D-backs pitchers Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw. Gregorius was brought up to the big leagues on April 18 and dazzled with his high energy level and dynamic range at shortstop. A left-handed hitter, Gregorius batted .252 in 103 games, but was used by manager Kirk Gibson sparingly as the year went on because of an anemic .200 average and .267 on-base percentage against left-handed pitchers.
Owings played the entire Minor League season at Triple-A Reno and earned a Sept. 1 callup. Selected by the D-backs 41st overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Owings was named the 2013 Pacific Coast League Player of the Year for batting .330 with 12 homers, 81 RBIs, 104 runs scored and 20 stolen bases.
Not quite as dynamic a shortstop as Gregorius, Owings still led all PCL shortstops with 331 assists. He played 20 games with Arizona and batted .291 (16-for-55).
Owings and his Reno teammate, third baseman Matt Davidson, both played for the U.S. team in the Future's Game at Citi Field on July 14. Davidson hit a two-run homer and was the game's MVP. A few days later back in Reno, he won the Home Run Derby prior to the Triple-A All-Star Game, in which both he and Owings also played.
Davidson, selected by the D-backs 35th overall in that same 2009 Draft, is a first baseman by trade and is learning to play third base. Right now, he's blocked at both positions in Arizona, by Paul Goldschmidt at first and Martin Prado at third.
The D-backs are also deep at shortstop, with highly regarded Double-A star Nick Ahmed playing for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League and veteran middle infielder Cliff Pennington on the big league roster. Willie Bloomquist, who played nine games at shortstop for the D-backs last season, is a free agent.
There has been some speculation that Davidson and Owings could be packaged in a deal for a front-line starting pitcher and/or power-hitting corner outfielder. As the offseason heads into full swing, they are obviously two of Towers' biggest chips.
"Exactly," Towers said. "We get asked about them a lot. We've already been asked about them since I've been here. I'm hoping we can hold on to them. We value both of them. They're homegrown players. They were high Draft picks. We have a history with them and we like them. But you know me, everybody is available in the right deal."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.