Before this season, Wingnuts pitcher Josh Lowey had to measure his career advancement in accomplishments — he won a championship in the Frontier League in 2010 and was that circuit’s Pitcher of the Year last season.
Now Lowey can point to tangible progress toward his goal of pitching in affiliated baseball. The 27-year-old right-hander finally escaped the Frontier League after four seasons in which he amassed a 29-9 record.
The Wingnuts traded for Lowey in December and he has thrived in a more prominent Independent league, the American Association. Lowey is 4-0 for the first-place Wingnuts, who begin a six-game homestand tonight against Kansas City.
"The American Association is an older league and a more established league," Lowey said. "I feel like I did virtually everything I could do in the Frontier League. ...I felt like the next step for me was getting into a better league, so that’s what I did and here I am."
Lowey is hardly a scout’s dream — at 5-foot-11, he doesn’t have the height that would help his pitches reach batters from a downward plane. Lowey’s age is also a drawback because he may not be viewed as having the upside of a younger pitcher.
He answers his deficiencies with qualities both quantitative and not. His fastball routinely sits above 90 mph and his competitive nature fits in well with the desired traits of manager Kevin Hooper, who has acquired players whose devotion can outweigh their physical skills.
"I have a pretty good mentality when I’m out there," Lowey said. "I stick to a gameplan and just try to minimize mistakes."
Lowey’s upside may not be completely diminished, either. He was primarily an infielder during his first two years of college and didn’t become a full-time pitcher until his junior season.
Like almost all pitchers — even those who weren’t position players in college — Lowey craves hitting. He has one professional at-bat and could be useful as an occasional pinch-runner, but his value as a pitcher superceded his hitting ability years ago.
"From what I hear, most scouts want younger players," Lowey said. "Being 27 makes that tough for me. But in the same aspect, I haven’t been pitching for very long. I hope that they could factor that in, too, that I still have a pretty young arm."
Lowey doesn’t have to go outside of his genetic makeup to find a pitcher who made an impression on professional scouts. His twin brother, Jason, was signed by the Atlanta Braves out of the Frontier League in 2010 and is currently rehabilitating an elbow injury.
The twins were teammates with River City that season and played together throughout their youth. Lowey said they didn’t experience much sibling rivalry and that there was no bitterness when he was passed over by a major league franchise in favor of his brother.
Despite indentical physical traits and similar ability, Jason made it into affiliated baseball — with the brothers’ favorite childhood team — on the strength of a fastball just a couple miles per hour faster than Josh’s.
"We grew up our whole lives and played on virtually every team together," Lowey said. "We’re very competitive, but at the same aspect we’re not competitive toward each other. We push each other, but we don’t throw it in each other’s face like, ’Oh, I did better than you.’ But I feel like we push each other pretty well."
The extra velocity on his brother’s fastball is an example of a small difference that can give one player an opportunity in affiliated ball while another gets passed by. Lowey is trusting that his ability to continue learning the nuances of pitching and his young arm will earn him a chance.
"I’m still young," Lowey said. "This is my (fifth) season and I feel like I can still improve. Every time I go out there I have something to work on. I feel like I’m getting better and learning stuff in the process. It’s fun to correct a bad habit that you may not know you’ve done and fix it. You can see results instantly."