The Importance of Spencer Howard in 2021
The Phillies have a laundry list of things that need to be sorted out this offseason. After finishing the season 28-32 and missing the playoffs for the ninth year in a row (2nd longest in MLB) the Phillies have more questions than answers.
One issue that has been overlooked due to the massive importance of other issues surrounding this god forsaken team is starting pitching.
The office should be prioritizing the re-signings of JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius. They also need to find out what to do with a tricky Jean Segura contract and somehow restore faith in Scott Kingery.
And yes, we all know about the historically bad bullpen. But what about starting pitching?
Of course, we have Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler at the top of our rotation. Zach Eflin will certainly be back as well. Jake Arrieta is packing his bags and rightfully so. That leaves a player option for another year of false hope in Vincent Velasquez and the rookie, Spencer Howard, to make a splash in the 4th and 5th rotation spots.
There is a ton of hype around Spencer Howard. Prior to the 2020 season, he was ranked 27th by Baseball America. He was 34th in the MLB Pipeline and also in the 30’s by whatever other prospect ranking people that are out there. He was touted as a top-of-the-rotation guy.
That just didn’t happen this year. In fact, more questions were raised rather than finding any type of answers. Just what the Phillies needed in an already screwed up 2020 season.
Howard failed to impress and ended up on the injured list to close out the year. He finished his brief season pitching in 6 games. He went 1-2 with a 5.96 ERA. The most concerning part, is that Howard failed to pitch any more than 5 innings and his velocity dipped drastically as each inning went on.
Rotowire detailed the decline in velocity after one of Howard’s starts, but this was consistent across all appearances.
The Phillies’ top pitching prospect averaged 95.3 mph and touched 96.5 mph with his heater when he struck out the side in the first inning, but his average fastball velocity dipped to 94.6 mph in the second inning, 93.7 in the third, 92.2 in the fourth and 91.9 in the fifth. He didn’t reach 95 mph with a fastball after the second inning.– RotoWire – August 31, 2020
As a starting pitcher, your velocity is extremely important and seeing such a drastic dip from a rotation guy pitching only 5 innings per start (hello Velasquez) is definitely an area of concern. Much of what I said about Kingery could also possibly be the same for Howard. With a shortened season, three weeks of summer camp, and just the entire chaos of 2020, maybe there was a chance that Howard just didn’t have enough time to get his arm to where he wanted it to be? Let’s hope that’s the case.
Howard has also been hit with more than one shoulder injury. He missed two months in 2019 and obviously the end of the 2020 season. It’s tough to be confident in him entering 2021 without a solid back-up plan, which the Phillies just don’t have in their farm system.
1st round draft pick Mick Abel is an optimistic 3-years away from the big leagues. Adonis Medina was called up to pitch a game in an emergency situation last season and didn’t impress. International signee Francisco Morales basically lost a year in the minors due to COVID and won’t be ready in 2021. De Los Santos and Erik Miller still have a long way to go. There’s no one else ready for the Phillies.
Howard has the talent. He’s shown flashes of it throughout his minor league career. The Phillies desperately need him to pan out into not only a rotation guy, but a top rotation guy of the future.
Mandatory Credit: Yong Kim: Philadelphia Inquirer