Phillies: Is Spencer Howard ready for 2020 rotation?

Matt Klentak, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Matt Klentak, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Phillies might not bring up their most exciting prospect this year, but 2020 could be his year to break out in the big leagues.

With the Phillies middling rotation proving to be a point of weakness amongst an otherwise strong roster, the front office is going to need to look elsewhere to find arms.

Perhaps one of their best options is a righty carving up prospects in Double-A Reading, flashing the brilliance that could make him a front-line starter, perhaps as soon as next year.

A second-round pick in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft, Spencer Howard was taken by the Phillies out of Cal Poly. Standing a solid 6-3 and weighing in at about 200 pounds, Howard is the big-body workhorse type that sported an 8-1 record with a 1.95 ERA in his sophomore campaign, leading to the draft notice.

In his first professional season, Howard went on a bit of a roller coaster, but that year culminated into a brilliant no-hit performance in the Atlantic League Playoffs. His career took off in 2018, where Howard struck out 147 in only 112 innings while dominating the Single-A circuit.

The big reason for considering Spencer Howard in the 2020 Phillies rotation is the culmination of his 2019 campaign. Over his 16 starts, Howard recorded a 1.95 ERA and struck out 99 over 73 innings of work. The big reason for the recent success is Howard’s ability to harness the stuff that made him a top-round pick.

Now the Phils No.4 prospect, Howard brings to the table the power stuff that seems to be the key to success in the big leagues (see Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander). Using simple mechanics that engage Howard’s huge frame, he works in the 94-96 range with his fastball, with scouts mentioning that he throws a heavy ball that can get up to 98 on the gun. His breaking mix includes a slider and curve mix with a change sprinkled in as a wrinkle. His slider seems to be a power breaker that generates a ton of swings and misses.

The big question is, just how ready is Spencer Howard? Well, he’s already 23 and is a polished prospect, gaining more command by the month. The Phillies have options when it comes to pitching in free agency, so they may store Howard for a mid-season call-up. However, Howard’s stuff and newfound command haven’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

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Howard may make a start in Lehigh Valley to test his late-season mettle, leading to a spring training invite. Even with his obvious recent prowess, Howard may fall victim to the system and mull around in Triple-A for a few starts before getting a crack at the big leagues. Even so, the numbers don’t lie, and with all the rotation issues the Phillies have had, Spencer Howard may just be the stud the Phillies need in 2020.