Loewen Pulling an Ankiel


No, Adam Loewen is not intentionally straining the ligaments in his ankle. Rather, he is following in the footsteps of Rick Ankiel, and reinventing his pro career as a hitter.

The 6’6″, lefthanded Loewen was a fine hitter in college with a rocket launcher for an arm, but after being drafted by the Orioles, was told to focus on pitching. Why? Well, because Loewen was a 6’6″ lefthander with a rocket launcher for an arm.

He’s still lefthanded, and still 6’6″, but no longer has a rocket launcher attached to the left side of his body. His career path from the mound has been decimated by injuries and inconsistency. He suffered a second stress fracture to his elbow this past season, an injury that would have set him back a minimum of a year. Instead of taking the grueling road back, and in the process seeing his value as a pitcher continue to dwindle, the young Canadian decided to change his job description.

“He has every bit as good a chance of doing what Rick Ankiel did. I wouldn’t bet against him,” said one American League scout who watched both when they were in high school.

“He was very similar to Rick Ankiel in high school, both as a pitcher and as a hitter. Ankiel might have been more advanced pitchability-wise, but Loewen’s weapons were every bit as good. You could probably dream a little more on him.

“As a hitter, Loewen had more raw power, and they were very close in putting the ball in play. They were in the same conversation, the same kind of animal, really.”

At 24 years of age, there’s still time for Loewen to make the transition, though he’ll have to progress quickly. His arm issues all but ended the chance to fulfill the bright promise as a pitcher the Orioles saw when they made him the 4th pick overall in the 2002 draft. In 35 MLB games over parts of three seasons, Loewen posted an 8-8 record with a 5.38 ERA. Even if he were able to come back from the most recent elbow injury, he likely wouldn’t have the velocity that dominated minor league hitters six years ago. So it’s not much of a gamble on his part — more a last-ditch effort to salvage his career as a baseball player.

The gamble, rather, is on the Blue Jays, who swooped in quickly to nab Loewen after the Baltimore birds dropped him from their 40-man nest. And for the Jays, it’s worth the chance. After all, it’s a great story — Canadian boy returns to his home country to chase his dream, against insurmountable odds. Not to mention that he might just be able to pull it off.

“If Adam Loewen was in the amateur draft this year, at 24, would he go in the top five rounds as a hitter? I’d say yes,” said the AL scout. “It’s worth the chance, for sure. I think he could do it.”

Of course, Adam Loewen’s comeback has nothing at all to do with the New York Mets, but it’s the first intriguing story of the Hot Stove Season, and worth watching.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Micalpalyn October 30, 2008 at 10:52 am
    Not quite Joe, there IS a NY tie.

    a. Adam loewen was the pitcher Omar targeted in that kris Benson trade before settling for John Maine. Loewen then opened eyes in that first baseball WS while pitching for canada.

    b. while I agree on his offensive potential i find his unwillingness to rehab the stress fracture less palatable. To me the psychological factors surrounding Ankiel and his ill-fated 2000 NLCS (vs the Mets)
    had to be factored. loewen has had no such high profile issues to overcome. To me I think a new start with an NL team would have rejuvenated him.

  2. joe October 30, 2008 at 11:03 am
    a. Glad the Mets had to “settle” for Maine

    b. This is the second stress fracture he’s suffered on his elbow. Besides the injuries, he hasn’t progressed as expected. Considering that he suffered the same injury twice, I suspect there’s a MAJOR issue with his throwing mechanics causing the problem. To rehab for a full year is hard enough, but to rehab for a full year, then have to completely overhaul the mechanical issue — which could take another year — and not be certain you’ll still have the same skillset in the end, is hard to do.

    Conversely, he could spend a year rehabbing, try to come back with the same mechanics, and bust his arm again. His value as a pitcher has already plummeted due to his ineffectiveness and fragility — it will continue to plummet as Father Time adds years to his age.

    Compare to Bryan Bullington, who was the first overall pick in that same 2002 draft, chosen ahead of BJ Upton. After similarly drastic arm injuries, surgery, and ineffectiveness, he was outrighted a few days ago and picked up by the Indians.

    Ironically, it was the Blue Jays who dumped him. Think about that — his stock plummeted so severely, the Jays dropped Bullington to make room for Loewen, a guy they’re not even sure can still hit.