Could Loewen Be the Next Ankiel?

July 20, 2008 | Thyrl Nelson

There’s nothing official on the O’s website at this time, but the word is, as Rex Snider broke on my show yesterday, that the O’s will be placing Adam Loewen on waivers in the next day or so, in hopes of sending him to the minors to eventually serve as an outfielder and/or first baseman. Actually since waivers don’t have to be made public, it’s possible that Loewen has already been placed on waivers.
The team’s reasoning is that Loewen could be out until at least 2010 attempting to rehab as a pitcher, but apparently the timeframe would be much shorter on a return as a position player. A return to the majors as a position player may be another matter altogether though. But with the recent success of Rick Ankiel, the precedent has at least been set. Whether or not Loewen could reach those levels remains to be seen.
I’ve scoured the internet to find out all that I could about Loewen as a hitter. It appears that he never had to hit as an Oriole in the minors, and he hit .000 (0 for 2) in his Major League career at the plate. He also didn’t hit at all in the World Baseball Classic in 2006. To say that Loewen was a good hitter in high school doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll translate to a major league hitter.
Whether or not Loewen will even clear waivers is still uncertain I suppose at this point, but given that he signed a contract as an ace pitcher, and would probably be considered overpaid as a project hitter, it seems like a safe bet. Someone might be doing the O’s a big favor by taking Loewen off of their hands.
Loewen’s contract has always been somewhat of a burden to the club. As a top draft pick in 2002, Loewen had a contract that guaranteed he be placed on the Major League roster by 2007 or be placed on waivers. Presumably if Loewen clears waivers in the next few days that clause would be negated.
On the upside, while negotiating that contact after being drafted by the O’s, Loewen joined the Chipola Junior College team, and pitched like a future ace while batting cleanup for the Indians. He played first and DH’d when he wasn’t pitching, but this 2003 article from Baseball America speculates about Loewen’s potential as a major league hitter. He led the Canadian team in hitting at the Jr. World Championships in 2002 and his college coach stated in the article that if he weren’t trying to save Loewen’s pitching arm, he’d be the best centerfielder on the club. Loewen batted .361 with a .510 slugging % for the Indians in 2003.
Remember too, that after falling apart in 2001 for the Cards as a pitcher, Rick Ankiel returned to the minors and continued to work on his pitching until 2005. In fact he made a brief and effective return for the Cardinals in 2004 before announcing his conversion to the outfield in March of ’05, reportedly after throwing just 3 pitches for strikes out of 20 in a bullpen session.
At 24, Loewen is a year younger than Ankiel was when he made the transition. Ankiel did have 86 at bats as a pitcher before attempting the switch but had just 2 homeruns and batted just .250 in his best season. Ankiel certainly hadn’t done anything with the bat that made you think he’d be a lock to be a major league hitter. But he was pretty good in high school. Hopefully Loewen will be able to reinvent himself in similar fashion, his 0 for 2 was against Tom Glavine after all.






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