MLB Scout's Video View: Analyzing Phillies Prospect Spencer Howard
While the game is away, Baseball America is digging into its video database and asking scouts around the game to analyze what they see from some of the sport's best prospects. Today's subject is Phillies righthander Spencer Howard.
A velocity spike in college raised Howard's prospect profile. He went from throwing between 83-85 mph when he arrived on campus to sitting in the low 90s and hitting 96 mph by the time the Phillies drafted him in the second round in 2017. His fastball has since touched 100 mph (the first time coming in his 2018 playoff no-hitter.)
Howard missed time in 2019 with a dead arm but still dazzled between high Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. Between the levels, Howard racked up 94 strikeouts in 71 innings. He ranked No. 27 on this year's Top 100 Prospects list.
Howard enters the year as the Phillies' No. 1 prospect. You can find his full scouting report here.
Here our our previous installments:
Here's the video below, followed by what our scout had to say.
SCOUT: This is a strong guy who throws with power through his delivery out of the mold of a classic power pitcher here. There are a couple things that you would maybe say aren’t ideal, but he certainly makes it work and allows him to repeat quality stuff with quality strikes and quality command.
Delivery-wise, the biggest difference I see here between 2018 and the AFL look is that either the Phillies or Howard did a good job of raising his glove side and getting more linear down the hill. In 2018, there is more of a shoulder rotation with a level glove side.
The slot is a tick lower in 2018 which is confirmed by his TrackMan numbers. His release point raised between 3-4 inches between 2018 and 2019, and that's directly reflected of the higher front side and direction to the delivery.
The change also gave him about a 2-inch increase to his vertical movement metrics as well between 2018 and 2019. He still has the pause in the arm stroke but since he is more aligned and linear to the plate, it plays as more of an energy gather at the bottom of the arc and less as a pause and hitch in the arm action.
For me, his direction is much cleaner and allows him to stay engaged through the plate much longer now.
As far as the overall stuff goes, he has a plus fastball with plus riding life and can pitch at the top of the zone at 94-98. The pitch also generates some running, tailing action so it has plus movement overall. His curveball shows plus snap but is a little inconsistent and will lose its bite at times. The slider is a plus for me when he stays behind it and creates more depth to the break than the lateral cutter action he will get when he overthrows it, but it has plus potential for sure.
The best weapon for him is his changeup. The pitch plays against both lefties and righties with plus arm speed. He takes off about 15 mph with it from his fastball, which is impressive to have that arm speed and vary the velocities that much. It’s one of the better changeups I have seen.
He can mix pitches and throw strikes with all four pitches. There are no pitches you would eliminate here so he is a four-pitch starter with three potentially plus pitches. That gives him a ceiling of a middle- to front-of-the-rotation starter.
I believe the slight delivery change helps him hold up and stay healthy enough throughout his career, and I see a ceiling of a No. 2 starter if all comes together and a floor of a No. 3 starter.