What to expect from Spencer Howard in bigs

August 9th, 2020

Bryce Harper has been waiting for this day for quite a while. The Phillies outfielder called for his team's top pitching prospect, Spencer Howard, to join him in the Majors this season ... and he's about to get his wish.

Harper didn’t get his way in the series he was hoping for, but he didn’t have to wait much longer to see the top pitching prospect in the system. Howard, No. 2 in the organization, No. 36 on the Top 100 and No. 8 among all right-handed-pitching prospects in the game, will make his Major League debut with a start in the second game of Philadelphia's doubleheader on Sunday.

The Phillies’ second-round pick in 2017 had been a reliever and a starter at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, though it was his ability as the Saturday starter in ’17 that led the Phillies to take him when they did. He’s done nothing but start as a pro and his stuff has gotten gradually better as he’s advanced, despite missing a chunk of the 2019 season with a shoulder injury. He made up for lost innings as one of the most dominant pitchers in the Arizona Fall League last year.

Howard was sharp during Summer Camp and Harper wasn’t the only one to notice. He’s continued to impress at the alternate training site and few doubt his ability to get big league hitters out. Here’s how his stuff breaks down with his grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale in parentheses (20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average):

Fastball (65): Not only does Howard have premium velocity, touching 99 mph and sitting mid-90s with ease, but he throws it with a ton of life. He can elevate it up in the zone to help him miss a ton of bats as well.

Slider (55): Yes, he has two breaking balls and yes, they are distinct from each other. The slider is a bit better than the curve and more often than not, a pitch he gets up to the upper 80s with good, late break to it.

Curveball (50): It’s not as consistent as the slider, but there are outings when it’s the better of the two breaking ball options, one that can also miss bats.

Changeup (60): This has become his best secondary offering and it is downright nasty. It’s a true plus out pitch, one with fade, depth and downward action. He’ll throw it at any point in the count now with extreme confidence.

Control (50): For much of his career, Howard has been around the strike zone, though it was more control than overall command. He’s had moments where he has command of all four of his pitches, which makes him nearly unhittable. He was a little too amped up in the AFL and that impacted his ability to find the strike zone at times, though he found ways to adjust as he went along. It’s not the kind of issue where there are any questions about his ability to be a frontline starter in the future, with an athletic and repeatable delivery.