Howard, others stingy in spring showings

March 6th, 2021

Spencer Howard, who comes into the year with a chance to make the Philadelphia roster after suffering rotator cuff inflammation in his pitching arm last season, turned in just about the best frame anybody could have asked for in his 2021 Grapefruit League debut on Friday.

The 24-year-old right-hander took the ball in the third inning of the Phillies' 3-0 win over Pirates and retired all three batters he faced, whiffing two of them.

The No. 42 overall prospect worked in the mid-90s, making 12 of his 14 pitches fastballs. After his shoulder trouble last year led to a decrease in velocity and a 5.92 ERA over 24 /13 innings across six starts in his first crack at the Majors, Howard has reportedly felt much stronger this year.

“It’s a feeling that I was searching for all last year,” he said earlier in camp. “It just wasn’t the same coming out. I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”

Facing Will Craig, Howard threw two pitches above 95 mph, getting Craig to line out to Didi Gregorius at short. He then punched out Kevin Kramer and Troy Stokes in succession, throwing one offspeed pitch for a ball to each -- a changeup to Kramer and a curve to Stokes.

Howard's perfect frame was one of a few head-turning outings by young arms in camp Friday.

Marlins prospect Trevor Rogers toed the rubber for the first time this season, pitching a 1-2-3 first and working around a walk to start the second before closing out a pair of hitless frames. The 2017 first-rounder notched three strikeouts in the start with all three coming on his slider.

Nick Neidert followed Rogers with two scoreless frames of his own. The 24-year-old righty tossed a perfect third, then worked around a leadoff triple, a hit by pitch and walk in the fourth, striking out three in total. Neidert now has four scoreless frames in two Grapefruit League outings.

In his second Cactus League outing this year, Oakland's James Kaprielian kept his ERA spotless. The 2015 first-rounder spun two one-hit frames with no walks and three punchouts. He also plunked Mike Trout, though the Angels star stayed in the game. Kaprielian has scattered three hits across three innings over his two spring appearances.

Here's a look at how other top prospects performed Friday:

Wander Franco, SS, TB (MLB No. 1 prospect)

After a day off following his loud first spring hit on Wednesday, Franco tripled his total with a pair of base knocks for the Rays. The 20-year-old shortstop, who features an 80-grade hit tool, ripped a pinch-hit single to center in the fifth, then added an RBI single to the same spot an inning later. Gameday »

Andrew Vaughn, 1B, CWS (MLB No. 14 prospect)

Vaughn reached base twice, including an RBI single, and swiped his first stolen base of the spring. The 2019 first-round pick has gotten on in all four games he’s played in thus far. Vaughn is 3-for-8 with four RBIs and four walks as he competes for a spot on the White Sox roster. Gameday »

Drew Waters, OF, ATL (MLB No. 35 prospect)
The game’s only runs were scored in the bottom of the sixth, and Waters contributed to half of that. The 22-year-old switch-hitter knocked a two-run double to right to cap the rally. Waters now has hits in back-to-back games while tallying his first RBIs of the campaign in the latest contest. Gameday »

Ryan Mountcastle, 1B, BAL (MLB No. 77 prospect)
Getting the start in left and batting third, Mountcastle drilled a two-run homer to left for his first hit of the campaign. The 24-year-old electrified O’s fans last summer, posting a .333/.386/.492 slash line with 23 RBIs in 35 games for his Major League debut. Gameday »

Josh Palacios, OF, TOR
Palacios turned in a rare single-shy-of-the-cycle performance, going 3-for-3 over three plate appearances and tallying five RBIs. Entering in the third inning as a pinch-runner, the 25-year-old outfielder belted an RBI double in the fifth, an RBI triple in the seventh and a three-run homer in the eighth. The 2016 fourth-rounder slashed.266/.371/.416 with seven homers over 82 games at Double-A New Hampshire in 2019 and has five hits over three games this week. Gameday »

Riley Adams, C, TOR
Adams made his first hit of the 2012 Grapefruit League count, slugging a two-run homer in a pinch-hit at-bat -- his only plate appearance of the game. The dinger makes Adams 1-for-3 over four games this spring. He went yard 14 times over 100 games between Class A Advanced Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire in 2019. Gameday »

Leonardo Jimenez, 2B, TOR
The 19-year-old Jimenez scored two runs, coming in on Palacio's triple after entering as a pinch-runner in the seventh and singling and scoring on Palacio's homer in the eighth. Jimenez has a total of 95 regular-season games under his belt -- none of them as high as the Double-A level -- but has appeared in four games this spring. Gameday »

Kody Hoese, 3B, LAD
After going 0-for-1 on Thursday in his first career Spring Training game, Hoese belted a solo shot to left to get on the board. The 2019 first-round pick played 41 games following the Draft, then spent 2020 impressing the Dodgers at their alternate training site and instructional league. Gameday »

Bobby Bradley, 1B, CLE
Bradley crushed his second home run of the campaign, a two-out, three-run shot to center to pad Cleveland’s lead. All of the left-handed batter’s hits, RBIs and runs have come via the long ball this spring. Bradley is the active leader of Minor League home runs since 2015, totaling 139 over that period and 147 in his Minors career. Gameday »

Luis Barrera, OF, OAK
Entering as a defensive replacement for Ramón Laureano in center field in the fifth inning, Barrera laced a double in his first plate appearance of the 2021 spring the next inning. His 70-grade speed allowed him to scoot to third on a flyout to center by fellow A's prospect Buddy Reed and scored on a sacrifice fly by Seth Brown. Barerra has a .280/.337/.412 slash line and 62 stolen bases since signing with the A's at age 16 in '12. Gameday »

Pavin Smith, 1B/OF, ARI
After collecting his first hit in four spring games Thursday, Smith added three more -- including a double -- in a perfect day at the plate in game No. 5. The left-handed hitter tallied an opposite-field single in the third inning, singled up the middle in the fourth and doubled to right to start the seventh. He scored twice. Smith played in 12 Major League games in 2020, going 10-for-37 (.270) with a homer, a triple and five walks. Gameday »

Tucupita Marcano, OF, SD
The 21-year-old continued his torrid Cactus League performance with a two-run homer in his lone at-bat after replacing Jurickson Profar in left field the previous inning. A second baseman by trade, Marcano has gone deep three times in more than 800 Minor League at-bats, including twice in 2019. The Venezuela native has four hits in eight at-bats across five games this spring for San Diego. Gameday »

Eguy Rosario, 3B, SD
Rosario wasted no time filling up the box score, launching a two-run homer in his first of two at-bats. The 21-year-old replaced third-baseman Manny Machado in the sixth inning before clubbing his first Cactus League roundtripper in the bottom of the frame. Gameday »