What Adam Loewen is attempting to accomplish doesn't happen all that often. Loewen has already made it to the big leagues once before, which came as no surprise after the Baltimore Orioles selected him fourth overall in the 2002 amateur draft. However, if Loewen makes it back to the show, it would be an incredible story. He would have the rare distinction of making it first as a pitcher, then returning again as a hitter. But it won't be an easy journey—Loewen is 26 years-old, and has just 526 professional plate appearances.
Last year, after signing with the Jays, he was sent straight to Advanced-A Dunedin, where he played in 103 games and made 391 trips to the plate. The 6'6", left-handed hitter played primarily in the outfield, getting into 62 games in left and 18 in right. He also manned first base for five games. Loewen hit just .236, but he did show some power potential with a .119 ISO. He also drew a healthy amount of walks, leading to a .340 on-base percentage. That's a solid OBP, considering the league average was .322.
He showed some skill on the bases, as well, swiping five bags in seven attempts. Loewen only left the yard four times, but he did pick up 22 doubles and three triples. In addition to drawing 50 walks, he also struck out 114 times in 335 at-bats. But, all the walks and strikeouts showed an ability to work the count. The Blue Jays were impressed enough with his first crack as a pro hitter. They sent him out to the Arizona Fall League. While there, Loewen was able to get more at-bats and more time in the field.
The Jays decided to keep pushing Loewen along to start 2010. He opened the season in Double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. In April, Loewen put up similar numbers to his 2009 stats in Dunedin, hitting .228 with a .353 OBP and an ISO of .140. The fact that he moved up a level, and continued to put up comparable numbers right away, was a good sign. Loewen also quickly grabbed six steals in seven tries in April. He hit a pair of homers, too.
Loewen has hit like a seasoned slugger in May. In just 56 at-bats, he's already notched three homers and five doubles. Eight of his seventeen hits have gone for extra bases. Loewen is batting .304 for the month, and still drawing walks to put his OBP at a healthy .403. Since going 3-for-3 on May 9, Loewen hasn't slowed down. He's hit safely in seven of his last nine games. Loewen hit .363 during the stretch, with a homer and six doubles.
His strikeout ratio has also improved in 2010. He's been rung up in 27 percent of his at-bats this season, down from 34 percent in 2009. Still a decent amount of strikeouts to be sure, but he's progressing against more advanced pitching. As for the walks, they're still coming at a similar rate. In 2009, he drew a walk in 12.7 percent of his plate appearances. This season, he's taken a walk in 12.5 percent.
The season is a long one, and Loewen will undoubtedly be tasked with making adjustments. Pitchers will look for ways to get him out now that he's established himself. His development in the field will be crucial, as well. Loewen, as you would expect, had slightly below average TotalZone numbers last season. He'll need another full season, or two, to fully develop in the outfield. If his progress in the field is as good as it has been at the plate, Loewen should be fine.
If he can make it back to the top, it will be a rare feat. And a great story that still has a few more seasons to unfold.
(Photo is courtesy of Kevin Littlefield)