In the third game of the Kannapolis-Lakewood series I was treated to a three-inning virtuoso pitching performance from Lakewood’s young gun Spencer Howard. Plucked by the Phillies in the second round of the 2017 MLB draft, Howard has already exceeded expectations. He nearly chose volleyball over baseball in high school and then walked on and dominated at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
In his draft season at Williamsport, Howard put together an unremarkable 4.31 ERA but he held opposing hitters to a stingy .224 AVG and showed great strikeout potential (47 in only 31.1 innings). On Sunday at Kannapolis he reaffirmed the Phillies faith in him showing a diversified arsenal (fastball, slider, curveball, change). The fastball velocity was impressive as he sat comfortably at 92-93 and didn’t look like he lost any of his smoothness when touching 95. The curveball (maybe slurve), generally clocked in around 79 mph looked like it had a sharp and dramatic 11 to 5 break, on this day, it was devastating.
Howard works with a letter high leg kick and a long stride toward home. His delivery looks to me like it comes from a three-quarter arm slot and although it’s not effortless, it’s far from a max effort action. He repeated well during the short outing. His pitch count was high as he had several long at bats (73 pitches 48 strikes) but in throwing 65% of his pitches for strikes, he exceeded the typical major league strike percentage (62%). In addition to showing good velo, he also displayed a pitch that exhibited arm side run. His scouting report suggests a four-pitch arsenal (fastball, slider, cutter, change), but the pro scout I talked to during the game suggested he saw a fifth pitch.
Overall, I was very impressed with Howard’s entire package. I thought his height might be overstated by an inch or so and I also thought if he would have been 6’5” scouts would be saying he is an ace in waiting. Howard’s raw stuff, mechanics and control lead me to believe he could be a very special pitcher in the big leagues. I will be tracking his starts closely to monitor his progress. I see his ceiling as a potential top of the rotation stalwart. If he falls short, a major league back of the rotation pitcher. Based on my first look, I would bet on the ceiling. I believe we can look forward to Howard pitching in the SAL league all-star game this summer.
Follow up: Howard did not pitch in the SAL all- star game as he had a rough patch that lasted several starts early in the year. However, he finished the season red hot. He threw a no-hitter against my beloved Kannapolis Intimidators in the SAL championship series. Overall he had a great season and affirmed my thoughts on his long term future.