Phillies: What to expect from Spencer Howard in MLB debut

Spencer Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Buck Davidson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Spencer Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Buck Davidson/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Spencer Howard #34 of the Scottsdale Scorpions (Photo by Buck Davidson/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Phillies fans will quickly learn that Howard has elite ‘stuff’ that will fool hitters at any level

The 36th-ranked prospect in baseball has a lethal four-pitch arsenal that results in a lot of swings and misses. At this point, most fans know that Howard has reached 99 miles per hour with his fastball and can blow it by hitters with ease. Expect to see a lot of his off-speed pitches on Sunday as well.

Even when Howard gets behind in the count, he can fool hitters with his nasty changeup that’s disguised as a fastball until it crosses the plate. It’s almost as good as Aaron Nola‘s on a really good day.

Howard’s slider has good velocity and a lot of bite to it, similar to Zack Wheeler‘s. He’ll likely get most of his strikeouts with it. His curveball is probably the least reliable of his four pitches, but it isn’t bad at all and can help keep hitters off balance at 76 miles per hour. It’s obviously difficult to adjust to that after seeing a fastball that touches 99 miles per hour.

The only major concern with Howard is how well he can locate all four of those pitches. It doesn’t matter how nasty your pitches are if you don’t have command. However, Howard is an intelligent pitcher and understands how to attack each individual hitter. When he misses his spot, he doesn’t panic and comes right back on the next pitch to challenge his opponent. He’ll also be able to get away with some mistakes with the velocity he has.

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Howard’s confidence doesn’t fade when he doesn’t have success. During his minor league career, he had eight starts in which he gave up four or more runs. In the eight starts directly following, he posted a 1.38 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP, and 51 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings.

That’s the definition of bouncing back. He also doesn’t get too arrogant after his best performances and keeps things in perspective. The 24-year-old has the tools and personality to be a successful starter for a long time. His competitive spirit is admirable.