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Owings frustrated by slow offensive start

@FlannyMLB
May 3, 2019

DETROIT -- When the Royals signed veteran Chris Owings to a $3 million contract last offseason, they were excited in knowing they were getting a versatile defender who could run and contribute to a speedy offense. The Royals’ baseball operations department, particularly the analytical people, argued strongly for the signing.

DETROIT -- When the Royals signed veteran Chris Owings to a $3 million contract last offseason, they were excited in knowing they were getting a versatile defender who could run and contribute to a speedy offense.

The Royals’ baseball operations department, particularly the analytical people, argued strongly for the signing.

But so far, while Owings has been a solid defender at multiple positions, his offense has lagged far behind.

Before he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Tigers, Owings' average dropped to .143, with two home runs and eight RBIs. His 39 strikeouts are third highest on the team and he has a strikeout rate of 35 percent.

Naturally, there have been cries from some fans and observers that the Royals need to move forward by calling up infielder Nicky Lopez, the team’s No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

But the Royals say they have no intention of giving up on Owings or lessening his playing time.

“All of our baseball operations people and our analytics department were in consensus that he was a great fit for us,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore told MLB.com. “And they still believe, as we do, that Chris will come around offensively.

“The truth is that he is a very good baserunner and very good defender. There was a lot of interest in Chris this offseason. We just have to see this through.”

The Royals are aware of Lopez’s terrific start at Triple-A Omaha -- .341 average, .437 on-base percentage. There are no immediate plans to push him to the Majors now.

“We are very pleased and very impressed with his development at Triple-A,” Moore said. “He continues to make strides and we continue to monitor that, just like we do with all our young players and prospects.

“Look, he’s our type of player. When the time is right, he’s going to have a bright future with us. We believe that.”

Royals manager Ned Yost said he isn’t about to give up on a struggling player such as Owings, either.

“His defense is a valuable commodity to me,” Yost said. “The problem we’re running into is his .149 or whatever it is wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t have two or three guys hitting that, too. I would like for him to swing the bat better because he’s a very good player. It would increase his value.

“But you’re not going to snap your fingers and make it better. It takes time. I work to make everyone on the team better. I don’t just throw them in the trash when they struggle.”

The Royals know the problem plaguing Owings offensively. He is chasing pitches out of the zone at an alarming rate. Owings is going after breaking balls out of the zone at a 40 percent rate, and his chase/miss percentage is 69 percent.

“And we’re trying to get his bat flatter through the zone,” Yost said. “But you don’t just say, ‘Hey, dude, stop swinging out of the zone. Quit.’ He’s working at it.”

Owings obviously is frustrated by his slow offensive start. He wanted to impress his new organization from the day he showed up in Spring Training.

“I mean, yeah, you’re frustrated because you come over here for one reason -- trying to get my career going again,” Owings said. “I think the toughest thing recently is that we’ve had some guys on when I’m at the plate. … I've got to do my part. The other frustrating thing is this team is designed so everyone can run, everyone can move, and I can, too. But I’m not getting on base.”

Owings is working every day with hitting coach Terry Bradshaw and coach Pedro Grifol to improve his swing and his plate discipline.

“Things aren’t ideal right now,” Owings said. “I’m just trying to get better. When you go through something like this it’s not just one thing, so you really just try to stay positive.”

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.