The Phillies’ schedule got a little complicated following the shutdown after the Marlins series. Then, some inclement weather caused a rain-out which resulted in a doubleheader on Wednesday. This left an opening on Sunday for a starting pitcher. Enter Spencer Howard. It appears that the Phillies have finally made the decision to call up highly touted pitching prospect Spencer Howard to make his MLB debut.
Manager Joe Girardi was asked this week about who may fill the void at starting pitcher on Sunday and told NBCSN’s Jim Salisbury, “Stay tuned. There’s a guy that we could use in a lot of different roles.” Girardi seemed to be playing coy about the possible call-up of Howard.
So, who is Spencer Howard?
Howard is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher from Templeton, California. From a young age, Howard has flashed the skills that would eventually lead to him becoming not only one of the Phillies top prospects, but also one of the top prospects in all of baseball. His ranking peaked at 37 out of 100 on MLB.com.
In his senior year of high school, Howard finished with a 7-3 record, 2.20 ERA along with 87 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings pitched. That earned him a roster spot at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) where he really took off and took the next step as a pitcher. Howard posted an 8-1 record along with a 2.05 ERA in his final season of college baseball on the road to a second team All American nod.
His success in college combined with the physical tools and projection left on his frame led the Phillies to select him with their second round pick, 45th overall, in the 2017 MLB draft.
Entrance into the Organization
Howard got off to a shaky professional start in 2017 posting a 1-1 record with a 4.45 ERA in 28 1/3 innings for the Williamsport Crosscutters. It wasn’t until 2018 that he began to really flash his potential, posting a 9-8 record with a 3.78 ERA. It was his eye-opening strikeout stuff that had scouts chomping at the bit to see more of him en route to 142 strikeouts over 112 frames. Following his 2018 regular season with Lakewood, Howard threw a no-hitter against Kannapolis. In that game, he struck out 9 batters on only 103 pitches – just 4 pitches shy of the “Maddux.” (99-pitch or less no-hitter)
Spencer Howard’s Ascendance
From that point forward, Howard was no longer a middle-tier Major League hopeful. He was now a guy scouts loved and many believed had front-line starter potential. Howard’s 2019 season across three leagues just further proved that notion. Howard finished his 2019 campaign with a 3-1 record along with an impressive 2.03 ERA with 94 strikeouts over 71 innings. He then pitched in 21 innings in the vaunted Arizona Fall League and was absolutely brilliant, posting a 1-1 record with a 2.11 ERA striking out 27 over 21 innings.
Howard throws a plus fastball that sits in the 96-99 range with good command on both sides of the plate. He also boasts a plus curveball, a plus slider when he’s locating it, and a plus plus changeup. His changeup shows great movement and command as well as a speed difference of 15 MPH from his fastball.
Rejoice, Phillies fans! Spencer Howard is on his way, and he’s going to be electric to watch for years to come.