Phillies 2020 Season Player Grades: Spencer Howard
Grading Phillies rookie RHP Spencer Howard’s 2020 season
The Phillies were really counting on Spencer Howard this year. That much was clear when the team started the season with Vince Velasquez as the number five starter, despite his horrific 2019 season (4.91 ERA, 5.21 FIP).
Sure enough, after eight games (and one disastrous start by Velasquez), the Phillies brought up Howard to the big-league club. And his debut was … not great. The Phillies top pitching prospect gave up a pair of home runs in 4 2/3 innings en route to an 8-0 loss to the Braves.
Unfortunately for Howard, that first game wasn’t an anomaly. He had trouble keeping the ball in park (2.22 HR/9) and runners off the bases (1.64 WHIP) all season. Unsurprisingly, this led to a less-than-ideal 5.92 ERA.
Howard was also unable to pitch deep into games. In six starts, he managed to pitch five innings in only one, and he lasted less than four innings in three others. His also had difficulty maintaining his velocity the more he pitched. With such a terrible bullpen, the Phillies needed their starters to soak up innings, and Howard disappointed in this regard.
When Howard wasn’t struggling on the field, he was struggling to stay on the field. He left his second start early with an apparent hand injury, and he landed on the injured list in mid-September with a stiff shoulder. This followed a knee injury he suffered in spring training and a shoulder injury that cost him two months in 2019.
Howard was a highly touted prospect going into the season, and Phillies fans shouldn’t give up on him just yet. He has the makings of an excellent starting pitcher, and six bad starts is not a large enough sample size to draw any significant conclusions.
However, Howard’s injury history is some cause for concern. He won’t be much help to the Phils going forward if he isn’t able to stay on the field.
Expectations were high for Howard, and he couldn’t have been more disappointing. I’m still optimistic that he can be a top-of-the-line starter, but there’s no way to grade this season anything higher than a D.