CORRECTION: I made a couple of references to James McOwen playing for Inland Empire. He plays for the High Desert Mavericks. My brain flashed back to the days when Inland Empire was the Mariners’ affiliate in the California League.
UPDATE, FRIDAY NIGHT/SATURDAY MORNING, 12:11 A.M.: James McOwen extended his hitting streak to 40 games with a single in his last at-bat — with two outs in the ninth inning, no less. Wow. High Desert lost 6-4 at Rancho Cucamonga.
James McOwen, a 23-year-old Mariners’ minor-league outfielder, is starting to get into some serious hitting-streak territory.
McOwen, who is playing for High Desert, a high Class A team in the California League, went 3-for-5 last night in the Mavericks’ 6-2 win over Rancho Cucamonga to extend his hitting streak to 39 games.
According to my research, McOwen’s streak is the 15th longest in the history of minor-league baseball (McOwen shattered the California League record when he reached 36).
The minor-league record for hitting streaks is the 69 games of Joe Wilhoit, playing for Wichita in 1919. And the reference to DiMaggio is not for his epic 56-game streak for the Yankees in 1941, but rather his 61-game streak for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1933 — the second-longest streak in minor-league history.
For what it’s worth, there have been just seven hitting streaks of 39 games or longer in the majors, the most recent being the 39-game streak of Paul Molitor in 1987.
McOwen throws right, hits left, and is 6-feet-0, 200 pounds. He is hitting .346 with four homers, 48 RBI, a .401 on-base percerntage and .488 slugging percentage for High Desert.
Is he a highly-regarded prospect? A lot higher now than before. Coming into the season, Baseball America didn’t even mention him in their “Prospect Handbook.” McOwen was drafted in the sixth round in June of 2007 out of Florida International University, and until this season, hadn’t done much to garner attention. He hit .269 in 56 games for Wisconsin in ’07, with 0 homers and 33 RBI. Last year, at High Desert, he hit .263 in 126 games with seven homers, 51 RBI, 103 strikeouts in 490 at-bats, a .324 on-base percentage and .392 slugging percentage. Keep in mind that the California League is a notorious hitter-friendly league, as evidenced by High Desert’s 33-18 loss to Lake Elsinore last week. The Mavericks lead the league with a .305 team average, with 102 homers in 78 games.
Two years ago, outfielder Brandon Watson, playing for Class AAA Columbus in the Nationals’ organization, ran off a 43-game streak. It was no harbinger of major-league success, however, Watson played just five games in the major leagues that year and has kicked around the minors ever since. He is currently playing for Reno, the Class AAA affiliate of the Diamondbacks — his fifth organization.
Top minor-league hitting streaks
69 Joe Wilhoit (Wichita) 1919
61 Joe DiMaggio (San Francisco) 1933
55 Roman Mejias (Waco) 1954
50 Otto Pahlman (Danville) 1922
49 Jack Ness (Oakland) 1915
49 Harry Chozen (Mobile) 1945
46 Johnny Bates (Nashville) 1925
43 Brandon Watson (Columbus) 2007
43 Eddie Marshall (Milwaukee) 1935
43 Orlando Moreno (Big Spring) 1961
43 Howie Bedell (Louisville) 1947
42 Jack Lelivelt (Rochester) 1912
42 Herbert Chapman (Gadsden) 1950
40 Frosty Kennedy (Plainview) 1953
39 James McOwen (High Desert) 2009
38 Mitch Hilligoss (Charleston) 2007
38 Hubert Mason (Binghampton) 1925
38 Paul Owens (Orleans) 1951
Source: International League website
Photo from minorleaguebaseball.com