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2020 Season Preview

Phillies Nation 2020 Season Preview: Spencer Howard


Philadelphia Phillies prospect Alec Bohm was asked about fellow top prospect Spencer Howard Friday afternoon. After watching Howard dazzle during the first two innings he pitched in an intersquad game Thursday, his reaction was pretty simple.

Spencer Howard is one of the Phillies top prospects. (Steven Kiebach)

“I’m glad he’s on my team, that’s for sure.”

If anyone on the Phillies current roster pool is qualified to make an assessment about Howard, it’s Bohm. Not only was he in the field behind him Thursday, but the two have been teammates at various levels of the minor leagues as well.

Perhaps the most important endorsement of Howard came from Bryce Harper, who advocated for Howard to be in the starting rotation as early in the 2020 regular season as possible.

Here’s everything you need to know about Howard, who Phillies Nation ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the organization in February:

2019 Recap 

When Howard pitched in 2019, he was about as good as any minor league pitcher in the sport.

Across four levels of the minor leagues, Howard went 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 15 starts, finishing the minor league campaign with Double-A Reading. The only issue is that Howard pitched just 71.0 total innings because of an early-season shoulder injury, putting the Phillies in a position where they will have to gradually build up the former second-round pick’s workload over the course of multiple seasons.

The Phillies sent Howard to the Arizona Fall League after the minor league season concluded, and he continued to pitch at an especially impressive clip, posting a 2.11 ERA in six starts.

Though it’s concerning that Howard only pitched 99.1 total innings in 2019, it wasn’t hard to walk away with the feeling that he couldn’t be a special major league pitcher. The Athletic‘s Keith Law recently said on Locked On Phillies that if Howard’s change-up develops and he’s able to improve against left-handed hitters, he could become “a pretty good No. 2 starter for a long time.”

2020 Preview 

In a 60-game season, the Phillies don’t necessarily have to worry about pushing Howard too much, but rather having him flash a ton of potential but over a small workload. That would set up expectations for him to develop into an elite starter in 2021, but leave the Phillies to have to limit his innings over the course of a 162-game season.

The reality, though, is that an innings debate with Howard in 2021 may be unavoidable. In the meantime, Howard could play a big role in helping to snap an eight year postseason drought.

Of course, it is very likely that Howard won’t begin the regular season on the 30-man roster. If the Phillies keep him off of the major league roster for the first six days (five games) of the regular season, they’ll gain an extra year until the 23-year-old reaches free agency. Howard acknowledged that service time manipulation is a reality in a media session Friday, and says he’ll focus on things that he can control.

“It [service time manipulation] is part of it,” Howard acknowledged. “There’s not much that I can do about it, other than just take care of my work every day, try to get a little bit better and keep progressing. What they [the Phillies] choose to do is up to them. Keeping everything that I can control rolling is my mindset towards it.”

Whether the Phillies have Howard make his major league debut in the sixth game of the season – which is slated to be at Yankee Stadium – or shortly thereafter, there’s little doubt that the pitch repertoire that Joe Girardi called “electric” will play at the major league level.

Check out our previous 2020 Season Previews

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