Report: Spencer Howard to make major-league debut vs. Braves

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According to Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Phillies intend to call up top pitching prospect Spencer Howard to make his first big league start against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

The Phillies will have to make a corresponding move to put him on the 40-man roster. It has been rumored for some time now that Howard might get the start Sunday as the Phillies did not officially announce a starter for the second game of their doubleheader.

A couple of days ago, Phillies manager Joe Girardi was asked if Howard was going to be in the rotation or coming out of the bullpen. Girardi didn’t make a decision either way.

“We talked about both roles for him,” he said (h/t Phillies Nation). “When he gets here and how we do it, we’ll have to manage because he’s not used to throwing out of the bullpen.”

The 24-year-old Howard is a hard-throwing right-hander whose fastball sits around the mid-90s and has a slew of off-speed pitches. The rookie pitcher dazzled with his breaking ball during summer camp last month.

Philadelphia selected Howard in the second round (45th overall pick) of the 2017 MLB draft out of California Polytechnic State University.

In his final year at Cal-Poly, Howard started in 12 games (appeared in 17), posted an 8-1 record, and recorded a 1.95 ERA, which earned him second-team All American honors.

After being drafted by the Phillies, the right-handed pitcher moved through the minor league ranks quickly. Howard was assigned to the Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League in 2017, where he got off to a rocky start posting an ERA of 4.45 in nine starts.

However, in the 2018 season, he got a chance to play a full season with the Low-A Lakewood Blue claws, where he showed improvement.

In 23 starts, the former Cal-Poly standout posted a record of 9-8, along with an ERA of 3.78, and 147 strikeouts. During that season, Howard also threw a no-hitter in the postseason that sent the Blue Claws to the South Atlantic League Finals.

From there, Howard made the jump last season from Low-A ball to Double-A Reading. But he missed some time due to a shoulder issue, prompting him to make a few rehab starts with the GCL Phillies.

Nevertheless, Howard dominated the competition in 13 starts between Single-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. 

In seven starts with Clearwater, he posted an ERA of 1.29 with 48 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched. Then with Reading, he produced an ERA of 2.35 and a 0.95 WHIP in six starts.

That being said, the baseball world will have a close eye on how the 24-year-old performs on Sunday in his debut. If it wasn’t for a six-day rule, which gave the Phillies control of Howard’s services through the 2026 season, he might have been on the active roster sooner.

In MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects midseason update, Howard is ranked 36th and is the 8th best right-handed pitching prospect.