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A Long Hitting Streak Does Not a Prospect One Make

Outfielder James McOwen is the current owner of the 45-game hitting streak, the minors’ longest since Roman Mejias hit in 55 straight — over 50 years ago. During the 45-game streak, McOwen has batted .398/.440/.536 for the High Desert Mavericks, the High-A affiliate for the Seattle Mariners. Obviously hitting safely in 45 straight games is quite a feat, so one might assume Jamie McOwen is some sort of valuable prospect, no?

Well, not exactly. McOwen didn’t make Baseball America’s Top 30 Mariners’ prospects in their latest handbook. He’s never been mentioned as a prospect by any of the other prospect gurus around the interwebs, such as Kevin Goldstein, Keith Law or John Sickels. What little I’ve been able to dig up is that he is what scouts call a “tweener”, meaning that while he might hit for some average, he won’t hit for the type of power you’d hope for out of a corner outfielder, and he can’t play center or any other up-the-middle type of position.

Looking at his minor league numbers, he has cut down on his strikeouts; they are down to 14.5% to 21% last year at the same level. His power production is up a bit, (.149 ISO) but it is hardly considered to be anything extraordinary in the hitter’s paradise that is the Cal League. With anyone in the middle of a 45-game hitting streak, you’d expect a high BABIP, which McOwen has, at .403. So there’s nothing whatsoever statistical here that backs up that McOwen is some sort of uber-prospect. He’s 23 years old, put up a ‘meh’ .323 wOBA last year, and as I said, is repeating a level.

McOwen’s hit streak is the 8th longest in minor league history. Just for kicks, let’s look at players with longer hitting streaks, and whether or not it translated into big league success. Take into consideration that the minors are quite what they are now, but:

Th lesson is here is these hit streaks are pretty meaningless in determining prospect status. Not trying to downplay his accomplishment, and here’s hoping he keeps the streak going. It goes without saying that McOwen is not the next Joltin’ Joe, but he’s not even necessarily a prospect.