A shortened 2020 season would make Spencer Howard a larger factor in the Phillies’ plans, according to Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Since Howard threw only 71 minor league innings in 2019 due to shoulder problems and was shut down at midseason, the Phils were going to ease him back into action this year under an innings limit at both the minor league and (if all things progressed well) Major League levels. If the 2020 season ends up being something of an abbreviated sprint, however, the right-handed prospect could end up pitching for Philadelphia as early as the new Opening Day, working in a starting or relief role and still potentially not approaching an innings cap that Lauber estimates could be around 130 frames of work.
A few more items as we kick off Sunday…
- Baseball America’s Ben Badler (subscription required) looks at five prospects who are lined up to join Major League teams when the international signing window opens on July 2. The Padres, Brewers, Braves, Indians, and Rangers have already been respectively connected to each of the five youngsters, with Atlanta and Cleveland each prepared to give out bonuses in the $1MM range.
- Fraidel Liriano, another shortstop from the Dominican Republic, is expected to land the largest bonus of the quintet, as Badler writes that the Rangers will give Liriano around $1.5MM. Liriano could eventually wind up at third base or second base rather than shortstop, though some scouts were intrigued by his hitting potential, with Liriano’s “strong hands and quick wrists, producing whippy bat speed.”
- Twelve teams contacted Kevan Smith during the catcher’s free agent stint this winter, Smith tells John Perrotto of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, though he was surprised to be on the open market at all. The Angels non-tendered Smith rather than go through the arbitration process with him (MLBTR projected Smith to earn a $1.3MM salary in 2020), a decision that left Smith feeling “pretty stunned…I thought I was on solid footing there.” Smith ended up signing a minor league deal with the Rays after surveying his options, saying, “You start looking around and see what’s going to be your best opportunity and what team you’re most comfortable with. You pick and choose, and it comes down to who’s the most interested. I definitely felt the Rays wanted me to be here.” Playing in Tampa Bay also brings Smith to the East Coast and at least a bit closer to his home in Pennsylvania, though the Pittsburgh native said he didn’t hear from the Pirates this winter, despite the Bucs’ need for catching.