Chris Owings enjoyed one of the dominant Triple-A hitting performances of 2013.
His .330 average for Reno was third-best among hitters at the Minor Leagues' highest level and 10th-best among all full-season Minor Leaguers. Beyond that, he established career highs with 31 doubles, eight triples, 81 RBIs and 20 stolen bases and also knocked 12 homers.
In fact, those numbers are the pieces of evidence the Pacific Coast League used when it named the D-backs' No. 2 prospect its MVP back in August. Owings was called up to the big club when rosters expanded in September and held his own during his short time in the Majors, hitting .291 in 55 at-bats.
Entering his sixth season since being selected 41st overall in the 2009 Draft, the 22-year-old is expected to compete with fellow youngster Didi Gregorius for the starting shortstop job in Arizona. (Owings also played 11 games at second base with Reno and three with the D-backs to give him some defensive flexibility heading into his rookie campaign.)
Owings talked to MiLB.com about his big 2013 season and what's next on the horizon.
MiLB.com: The numbers tell a story, but how do you feel were you able to transition to Triple-A ball in your first year at Reno?
Owings: Well, it was kind of a crazy Spring Training, to be honest with you. There were a couple different injuries, and that changed how they were approaching everything. I was supposed to go back to Double-A [Mobile]. But then [Willie] Bloomquist got hurt and they decided [Josh] Wilson was staying in the big leagues to start the year, so I got moved up to Triple-A. It was a great opportunity from there. I loved playing in Reno. The fans were awesome. I really enjoyed getting the chance to play there.
MiLB.com: Did that unexpected opportunity give you a little extra juice coming into the season?
Owings: It's always exciting to move up, obviously. I thought I had a really good Spring Training, so there was some momentum from that. But I just went out there and tried to do my job like any other year. That being said, it was good to get the confidence from the organization that they thought I could handle Triple-A at the beginning of the year. That meant a lot.
MiLB.com: Was there one moment that you felt really settled in there in Reno? Or was there one particular moment that stuck out to you over the course of the year?
Owings: There wasn't one big "welcome" moment, I don't think, just because I felt like every day I tried to approach it the same, have the same mentality, the same routine. So it felt pretty similar from beginning to end. But if I had to pick one moment that stood out, I'd say hitting three homers against Fresno. I've never done that anywhere at any level. That really stands out. That was a fun day.
MiLB.com: You were able to get a few awards along the way. How did that feel?
Owings: Accolades are obviously nice to get, but for me, the year stands out more as a body of work than any one award. Looking back at the hard work and seeing how it all paid off -- that's what I take the most pride in.
MiLB.com: Well, that hard work paid off in a trip to the Futures Game. What was that experience like?
Owings: It was great for a bunch of different reasons. One was I got to do it with my best friend [and former D-backs prospect Matt Davidson]. We came in from Tacoma on a five-hour plane ride to New York City, and I had never been before. So it was cool to get some experience there. I had never been to the Mets' new stadium there, obviously, either. But it was cool to be in the home locker room of a Major League park and then get to play, too. It went by pretty quick, though. Luckily, I was able to share it with some of my friends and family. It was a good time for everybody.
MiLB.com: Speaking of Davidson, he's of course been traded to the White Sox. What's your reaction to that deal?
Owings: I think it's a great opportunity for him to go over there, for sure, and I'm excited for him. Both he and [Adam] Eaton have new chances in a new organization. Good for those guys that they get those opportunities.
MiLB.com: With him being your best friend and you guys playing next to each other for so long, how have you handled the trade?
Owings: It probably won't hit too hard until Spring Training, to be honest. We played together for a long time. It'll be a little different, but we've both got exciting opportunities.
MiLB.com: Back to 2013 for a bit, you got to make your Major League debut in September. What were those first few days like?
Owings: I was feeling pretty good at the time because it was just after the season was over, and we won a couple games in a row to end the year on a high note. Then I find out I've been given a plane ticket to join the big club, and it was one of those moments you're thankful because you know the hard work has paid off. It was great, too, because I was actually able to get some experience up there, which doesn't always happen for guys who get called up late. I played in a bunch of games -- some at short, some at second -- and I think that'll help me out, having that experience going forward.
MiLB.com: Speaking of playing at second, where did that idea come up for you to try it out?
Owings: They talked to me about it first in Spring Training, and I started playing there for a few games in April. Didi and I were actually going to rotate four-and-four at short, and I got into a good routine that way. But then he got called up and I didn't play second base at all from May to September until I moved up, too.
I like being over there, to tell you the truth. It's kind of exciting to play a position that I haven't played in so long. It's a challenge and just a different thing to tackle.
MiLB.com: When was the last time you played there?
Owings: Oh, the last time I was there before this year, I was probably 12 or 13. I've been a shortstop ever since. It's been a while.
MiLB.com: How do you think you handled the transition?
Owings: It took a little while after being at shortstop for so long. The angle is the biggest thing, because you're seeing the ball come off the bat differently. It's all about getting over there, getting in reps, getting used to the angle, and everything else kind of falls into place.
MiLB.com: You mentioned Didi Gregorius. You guys are expected to both go after the starting shortstop job with the D-backs. How's the relationship between you two?
Owings: We've got a good relationship, I'd say. We've known each other for a couple years now. I think it actually goes all the way back to A-ball, when he was at Dayton and I was in South Bend in the same league [in 2010]. We know each other pretty well and have a lot of respect for the other guy. We know it's going to be a competition, but we both enjoy competition -- so you have to look at it that way.
MiLB.com: Given that jam at shortstop and that the D-backs traded Davidson and Eaton, is there a small part of you that thinks you might be the next to be headed to another team?
Owings: I'm not really looking into that too much right now. I'm just focused on the competition at shortstop coming up. I'm an Arizona Diamondback right now, and I'm excited to be one.
MiLB.com: Besides potentially earning a starting job out of camp, anything else you're looking forward to in particular this Spring Training?
Owings: Honestly, opening in Australia [against the Dodgers in March] is going to be a lot of fun. Sure, it's going to make Spring Training a little bit shorter and that means everything's going to be a little higher in intensity, but I'm really excited for the whole thing. I've never really been out of the country, actually. We'll see how the plane ride goes. [laughs]