The Philadelphia Phillies have an intriguing strategy for top pitching prospect Spencer Howard in 2020 – rest him early to unleash him when it matters.
Every year, teams discuss how their top pitching prospects will be protected through pitch counts and innings limits. The idea is that, by putting such limitations on those arms, those top prospects will be able to avoid injury and deliver for years down the road. However, more often than not, those limits mean that these arms are not a factor come late August or September, when teams need them most.
This is something that the Philadelphia Phillies have come to realize as well. As such, they are taking a different strategy with their top pitching prospect, Spencer Howard. They plan to limit him in the early part of the season, with that idea that they can unleash him in the second part of 2020 when he could make a difference in a possible playoff run.
The Phillies had already been somewhat cautious with Howard’s workload in the minors. Over his three seasons in the Phillies system, he has accumulated just 211.1 innings, not including his time in the Arizona Fall League last year. That total is also due to his missing seven weeks due to shoulder tendonitis last year, which limited him to just 71 innings.
When he has been on the mound, Howard has been impressive. He has put together a 3.28 ERA and a 1.136 WHiP in those 211.1 innings, striking out 281 batters with 74 walks. Even with his injury last year, Howard was able to reach AA for the first time, where he held his own over his 30.2 innings.
Presumably, Howard will start the 2020 campaign in AA once again. If, in his limited work at the start of the year, he once again dominates in the Eastern League, a promotion to AAA may come quickly. At that point, the countdown for when Howard will make his major league debut will be ready to begin.
It seems as though the Phillies are banking on this very scenario. Instead of a flashy trade at the deadline to improve their rotation, Howard could be that upgrade. Of course, that is entirely dependant on his production, and whether or not the Phillies top pitching prospect can stay healthy.
The Philadelphia Phillies are going to start Spencer Howard slowly this year. If all goes to plan, he will be unleashed upon the majors, without restriction, when the Phillies need him most.