Two Phillies prospects were named among the Top 20 South Atlantic League by Baseball America after strong seasons in Low-A Lakewood.
Baseball America continued their series of prospect rankings for each minor-league Tuesday as they released their 2018 Top 20 South Atlantic League prospects. Two Phillies prospects, pitchers Will Stewart and Spencer Howard, who spent the year in Low-A Lakewood, were on the list.
Howard was drafted in the second round last year by the time and is now 22 years old. BA ranked him the No. 12 prospect in the SAL. He is the team’s No. 18 overall prospect according to MLB.com.
In 23 starts in Lakewood this year, Howard posted a 3.78 ERA, 2.61 fielding-independent pitching, 1.26 WHIP, and .238 opposing batting average. He struck out 147 batters and walked 40 in 112 innings pitched. He led the league with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Howard hit a rough patch in the middle of the season but finished out the year strong with a 2.12 ERA and a 34.6% strikeout rate in his last 11 starts. Howard threw the first complete-game no-hitter in SAL postseason history to help them reach the SAL finals.
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BA stated that Howard struggles with consistency but can be downright dominant when he is on. They praise his arsenal, which features a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider. Paired with a changeup and curveball, he has the makings of a true starter’s arsenal. The key to future success is finding consistency moving forward. BA criticized Howard for not dominating the league more but called him the best pitcher in the league when he was at his best.
Stewart was drafted in the 20th round of the 2015 draft. BA ranked him the No. 14 prospect in SAL. The 21-year-old hasn’t been in the prospect conversation up until this year, but his strong season could put him into the back end of Philadelphia’s Top 30 list.
In 20 starts, Stewart had a 2.06 ERA, 3.09 fielding-independent pitching, 0.98 WHIP, and .216 opposing batting average. He struck out 90 batters and walked 21 in 113.2 innings. The lefty finished second in the league in ERA, WHIP, and opposing batting average.
Stewart doesn’t offer the same power on the mound as Howard with a fastball that sits between 89-93 mph per BA. He instead uses his strong command and plus changeup to find success. He still needs to make major strides with his slider to find a role as a back-end starter.
Both Stewart and Howard should be in High-A Clearwater next year in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. If Howard can find consistency and Stewart can improve his slider, they both have major-league potential.