The SF Giants bolstered organizational depth recently. According to the team's transaction log, they have added former Philadelphia Phillies top pitching prospect Spencer Howard to a minor league deal.
SF Giants add former top Phillies pitching prospect to a minor league deal
The Phillies originally drafted the right-handed pitcher in the second round of the 2017 draft out of Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo in San Luis Obispo, California. He rapidly rose up the draft boards late in 2017 after transitioning to the rotation for Cal Poly where he posted a 1.95 ERA, 10.0 K/9, and a 4.22 SO/W ratio across 87.2 innings.
By the time the Phillies drafted him, it was not necessarily a stretch. Though, he had a very limited track record to work with and was coming from a smaller school. Nevertheless, Howard quickly rewarded the Phillies' trust by performing well through the lower minors and rising up the prospect rankings.
From 2020 - 2021, the pitching prospect was commonly regarded as the top prospect in the Phillies organization and considered one of the top prospects in baseball, ranking as high as No. 27 according to Baseball American prior to the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Across six minor league seasons, the 27-year-old has tallied a 3.66 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 12.0 K/9, and a 3.64 SO/W ratio while working primarily out of the rotation. He missed some time in 2019 due to a rotator cuff ailment and, like many prospects, lost a year of development time in 2020 due to the pandemic.
So, Howard still has a relatively young arm as he has just 315 innings of work in the minors under his belt. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs was very high on Howard's four-pitch arsenal in his 2021 Phillies prospect rankings.
""Howard has impact stuff. His changeup is plus, he can blow his fastball past lefties near their hands, his slider has big time action to his glove side, and his low-70s curveball is a nice look to present hitters the second and third time through the lineup... There are three or four bat-missing pitches in Howard’s bag when he’s healthy and loose."- Eric Longenhagen
His success in the minors has not translated to the majors just yet. The former second-round pick was the centerpiece in a deal that sent veteran pitcher Kyle Gibson from the Texas Rangers to the Phillies in 2021. In parts of four seasons in the majors, Howard has struggled to the tune of a 7.20 ERA in 38 appearances.
The New York Yankees swung a trade at the 2023 trade deadline to acquire the former top prospect, but he was released less than a month later.
I realize that the Giants front office has done a lot of these types of moves over the past several seasons with very few of them paying dividends. That said, this is the type of move they should be making, especially with the success they have had with pitchers over the past few seasons. At the very worst, it is still a minor league deal at the end of the day.
Oddly, this move is occurring at the end of the season. Howard should have the ability to elect free agency this winter as he will have reached six years of service time in the minors. This could be one of those odd, multi-year free-agent deals, but that will be determined later on.