Prospect continues journey from D-II to Fall League breakout

October 21st, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Carter Howell's last half-decade in baseball has been a series of yeses.

The outfielder got only one college offer from Division II Augustana (S.D.) University and accepted it. He barely played in 2018 (when the Vikings won a national title), redshirted as a sophomore in 2019, missed 2020 because of the pandemic and broke out with a .424 average and 1.176 OPS in 2021.

Howell returned to school for one extra year and nearly matched his line from the previous season by slashing .396/.447/.691 with 17 homers in 61 games. But after not getting selected in the 2022 Draft, only one team came calling about a professional opportunity -- the Giants.

"I didn't give them a chance to say no," he said.

A year later, Howell has accepted another assignment from San Francisco, this time to the Arizona Fall League, where he's continued his upward trajectory.

The 24-year-old went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and three RBIs from the cleanup spot Friday to lead Scottsdale to a 7-2 win over Peoria at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. It was Howell's second three-hit performance through 10 games in the Fall League and improved his slash line to .324/.378/.676 over 37 plate appearances.

The homer was the right-handed slugger's first hit of the day, coming in the fourth inning. Facing Marlins right-hander Gabe Bierman, Howell went down 0-2 before working the count back to 2-2 by fouling a ball off and not chasing a pair below the zone. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, he launched a 91.3 mph fastball on the inside corner 418 feet onto the berm in left field. The long ball had an exit velocity of 107.3 mph.

It was Howell's third homer of the Fall League, putting him in an eight-way tie for third place in the Fall League. That's notable for a player who went deep 10 times over 119 games between Single-A San Jose and High-A Eugene during the regular season.

"Home runs for me are just accidents," Howell said. "I'm trying to hit the ball hard somewhere, and if it goes, it goes."

That may underplay Howell's growth as a power hitter. He initially showed up to Augustana at 165 pounds, knowing he needed to get bigger if his bat was going to play at Division II, never mind the pros. He's listed at 200 pounds today.

"I needed to mature physically," he said, "and I did that through the weight room and my coaches. I developed myself through them and needed to be a bigger, better player."

Howell got stronger in other ways as 2023 went along too. He moved from San Jose to Eugene in late May but entered August with just a .238/.320/.370 line with a 21.1 percent K rate through his first 45 games with the Emeralds. From Aug. 1 onward, he hit .315/.399/.462 and dropped his strikeout percentage to 18 in his final 35 Northwest League contests.

"I honestly just adapted to pitching," Howell said. "It's not too big a jump, but it's a little bit of a jump from Low-A to High-A. Once I got the pitching down and what pitchers were trying to do to me, that's when I made that switch. … I realized it wasn't always going to be a fastball."

Having noted Howell's late-season adjustment, the Giants approached him in September about sending him to the Fall League. So instead of packing up to begin his offseason back home in South Dakota, he pointed his compass southwest to Scottsdale. In Arizona, he's continued to solidify his standing as a potential future Major League fourth outfielder -- one who can play all three spots on the grass and run into the occasional "accident" of a homer.

But no matter where he lands, he doesn't consider himself far from Augustana.

"I haven't really changed much," Howell said. "I just go out there, play, do everything I can to be the best player I can be and represent the underappreciated, undervalued Division II baseball players and show that it's a good level. We came to play too."