Since he arrived on the scene in November of 2019, Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington has emphasized, and at times, given preference to positional versatility when constructing rosters from PNC to Pirate City. Along with this flexibility, he has also targeted players with pure athleticism in the field and on the base paths, which sometimes, obviously goes into being able transition between almost every position in the infield, or even ranging into the outfield when needed.
Now, I know that Cherington didn’t hand pick this particular two sport athlete out of Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio, but 20-year old Jase Bowen sure fits the mold.
Prior to being drafted by the Pirates in the 11th Round of the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft, Bowen had received a full athletic scholarship to attend Michigan State University as wide receiver for the Spartans football team, as well as a second baseman and outfielder on the baseball team.
In high school, he had started at shortstop all four years, while playing the outfield for his travel team. Selected as an outfielder, and signing for $392,500-with the slot for his draft position being $125,000-Bowen was immediately assigned to the GCL Pirates at Pirate City in Bradenton, where he began the season as an outfielder before moving to second base for the remainder of the year; not because of performance, as he actually didn’t commit an error his entire time there. Sure he only slashed .223/.301/.315, yet, eight of his hits were for extra bases; which exhibited an ability to make solid contact, and to get around the diamond when he did so.
Then, as for most Minor Leaguers in his position-not close enough to the Majors and not a highly touted prospect-Bowen was left with out baseball for a year; aside from an invite to the Instructional League in the Fall of 2020. Before this all took place it was most likely that he would have started last season with the Pirates, now defunct, Advanced Rookie Level Affiliate, the Bristol Pirates; but unfortunately at this point it can only be speculated.
What we do know is that Bowen started this season with an assignment to the newly restructured Low A-Bradenton Marauders, that could have just as easily been another go around in the GCL. So, far he has done nothing but take this opportunity and run with it. On the year thus far Bowen is slashing .247/.309/.494 with 5 homers, 2 triples, 3 doubles and a 114 wRC+; and he’s have a great time doing it.
Now if I being honest, and not a complete fanboy, I have been a little concerned about the swing and miss, to go along with a low walk rate, which currently sit at 25.8% and 4.1% respectively; however I look for for both of these to adjust toward the positive as he continues to adjust to live at bats, following a year off the field. Plus, remember that he is still only 20 years old for almost the entirety of the remaining season.
He is young and has plenty of time to modify and adapt his approach; and I fully expect to see him in August when the Marauders take on the Clearwater Threshers in a six game set at BayCare Ballpark on what I can only imagine will be a sweltering summer night on the Gulf Coast of Florida. But this isn’t a bad thing, as there is depth and competition at the levels immediately above Bowen, as well as on his own team.
Nevertheless, Bowen has one one thing that a lot of these guys don’t have, position versatility; and that could make him very useful in Ben Cherington run system.