It’s been a pretty solid week for Adam Loewen. First, the newly-converted outfielder gets called up to the majors for the first time since 2008, back when he was pitching for the Baltimore Orioles. Then, on September 7th, he gets his first start in center field and picks up his first major league hit and run to boot. This Sunday, Loewen picked up his first home run and his first two-hit game, and then yesterday he went and robbed a home run from Carl Crawford at Fenway Park. Not bad for anybody, really. Even better for a guy with Loewen’s story.
Loewen’s pitching career really never got off the ground. He recorded a 4.20 FIP and 2.0 WAR in 2006, but that was accompanied by a 5.37 ERA. He then put up an empty 3.56 ERA (with a 7.7 BB/9) in 30 innings, but then the injury bug began to strike. Loewen missed the last 135 games of the season with an elbow injury, and then missed 59 games of the 2007 season with a forearm injury and later missed the last 73 games of the season with an elbow injury.
Loewen was already about to enter his age 25 season at this point, but the injuries had taken such a toll on his elbow that he decided he couldn’t continue as a pitcher. Usually, this means retirement, but Loewen chose to pursue a career as an outfielder. In 2009, Loewen joined the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system, and although he struggled to re-acclimate himself in High-A, striking out in 29% of plate appearances, he showed good plate discipline and ended the year with a .236/.340/.355 line — hardly encouraging for a 25-year-old in high-A, but these are obviously odd circumstances.
Slowly but surely, things have come together for the former pitcher. He improved to .246/.351/.412 in Double-A and lowered his strikeout rate to 26% in 2010, flashing a bit more power and retaining his excellent walk rate. After tearing up the Arizona Fall League to the tune of a .333/.438/.667, Loewen earned a call-up to Triple-A Las Vegas, where his strikeout rate continued to plummet and his power continued to rise (partially due to the environment of Las Vegas and the PCL). Loewen posted a 23% strikeout rate with the 51s, improving his line to a solid .306/.377/.508, a 118 wRC+.
And now, Loewen has shown us a bit in his first few games in the majors, going 3-for-10 with a home run and two hit-by-pitches, as well as flashing the leather a bit. Loewen’s tendency to strike out will probably keep him from hitting at the level he attained with Las Vegas, but there is reason to believe he can hit like a major leaguer and, if his play last night was any indication, he could be a solid center fielder as well. It’s difficult to see where Loewen fits in the Blue Jays outfield, between Colby Rasmus, Jose Bautista, Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Rajai Davis, and others. But if Loewen continues to get shots this season — and he should, with Rasmus sidelined — he could very well prove himself worth of a MLB job in 2012, whether it’s in Toronto or elsewhere.