Top Phillies pitching prospect Spencer Howard set to take the mound again


Top Phillies pitching prospect Spencer Howard will start next Friday.

In the Arizona Fall League.

The Phillies are sticking to their plan of not rushing the 23-year-old right-hander into a big-league pennant race. Howard is tentatively scheduled to make five starts in the AFL. He will be limited to five innings or 75 pitches in those outings.

Howard had a 2.03 ERA in 71 innings between Single A and Double A this season. He made six regular-season starts at Double A Reading and allowed just 20 hits and eight earned runs in 30 2/3 innings. He struck out 38 and walked nine over that span. He topped it all off with a strong start against Trenton in the Eastern League playoffs — seven innings, two hits, two runs, two walks, 12 strikeouts on Sept. 4.

Phillies officials talked about bringing Howard to the majors in September but in the end took a conservative approach because of his lack of experience above Double A. Team officials were also cognizant of the fact that Howard has never pitched competitively with a big-league ball. The balls used in the majors and Triple A are wound tighter and have lower seams than the ones used in Double A and below. Some have described the big-league as a cue ball and a number of young pitchers have had difficulty with the adjustment (see story).

Howard has thrown bullpen sessions with a big-league ball and will continue to do so in off-season workouts. The AFL does not use big-league balls.

Howard will have to make a quick adjustment to the big-league ball next season. He is expected to receive an invite to big-league spring training camp and could challenge for a spot in the rotation out of camp or shortly after the start of the season.

“He's got some of the best stuff we've seen in our system,” said Josh Bonifay, the team’s director of player development. “We would expect him to be there in the future. I don't know when, but be there in the future.”

Alec Bohm is another top prospect who could be in big-league spring-training camp in February. The third baseman was honored before Saturday night’s game with the Paul Owens Award as the organization’s top minor-league position player in 2019. Lefty Ethan Lindow won the award on the pitching side.

Bohm, a 23-year-old third baseman, was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2018. He hit .305 with 30 doubles, 21 homers and 80 RBIs in 125 games between Single A and Double A.

Lindow, 20, had a 2.52 ERA in 110 2/3 innings at two levels of Single A ball.

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