The Phillies optioned righty Spencer Howard to their alternate site this week, but it’s not the demotion it might appear to be upon first glance. Rather, they’ll get him stretched out to work as a starter over the next few weeks with an eye toward adding him to the rotation next month, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
It’s a quick change in direction for a Phillies club that had previously planned to keep Howard, the organization’s top pitching prospect, in a bullpen role for the 2021 season. President of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski plainly said as much prior to the season, but as Breen highlights, the team’s fourth and fifth spots in the rotation have yielded dreadful results.
Lefty Matt Moore, signed to a one-year deal on the back of a solid showing in Japan last year, has yet to give the Phillies a competitive start. He’s been tagged for a dozen earned runs on 17 hits with an ugly 12-to-9 K/BB ratio through 11 innings of work. Righty Chase Anderson was mostly solid during his first three starts, yielding two runs apiece, but those starts lasted just five, four and four innings, respectively. He was clobbered for six runs in 3 2/3 innings in his most recent turn (albeit at Coors Field). Vince Velasquez has made only one start, lasting four innings, and hasn’t fared especially well in relief.
Fortunately for the Phillies, the top three starters in their rotation have each been excellent. Ace Aaron Nola is sitting on a 2.84 ERA through 31 2/3 innings and recently hurled a shutout in which he punched out 10 Cardinals. Zack Wheeler’s strikeouts are back after a 2020 hiatus, and he’s sporting a 3.13 ERA through an identical 31 2/3 inning workload. Zach Eflin leads Philadelphia starters with a 2.77 ERA and a brilliant 19-to-2 K/BB ratio in 26 innings.
Ideally, Howard will get stretched out and turn that strong trio into a formidable quartet. The 2017 second-rounder has ranked among the game’s Top 50 prospects for the past two seasons, according to each of Baseball America, FanGraphs and MLB.com. He hasn’t exactly thrived in the Majors to this point (6.28 ERA, 4.44 SIERA), but he’s only tallied 28 1/3 MLB innings and is still just 24 years of age. We don’t have 2020 minor league numbers to look at for obvious reasons, but back in ’19, Howard tallied 71 innings across four levels and logged a combined 2.03 ERA with a brilliant 34.8 percent strikeout rate and a tiny 5.9 percent walk rate.
Of course, the Phillies’ initial reason for wanting to use Howard in the ’pen was to limit his 2021 workload after he battled shoulder troubles in both 2019 and 2020. He’s not going to be plugged into the rotation and given the go-ahead to toss six or seven innings every fifth day through season’s end. Breen suggests the righty could be tasked with working the first four or perhaps five innings of a game every fifth day. Perhaps both he and Anderson — if Anderson can continue working in mostly solid four- or five-inning blocks — could then round out the starting staff, with the Phils leaning more heavily on the ’pen on those days.
The Phillies have one of the game’s bottom 10 farm systems by most rankings (including BA and MLB.com), so it’s not a huge surprise that they’re lacking in upper-level alternatives to plug into the rotation. Left-hander Bailey Falter and righty Adonis Medina give them a pair of candidates, and both have already very briefly cracked the big leagues.
The Phils will surely have some other internal arms pop up, and they have some depth pieces like Bryan Mitchell and Enyel De Los Santos slated to begin the year in Triple-A. They were also among the teams to watch Anibal Sanchez’s workout last Friday. Still, if they continue to hover around .500 and remain in the playoff hunt, it’s easy to envision Dombrowski hitting the summer trade market in search of some arms to augment his starting staff.
Can’t be as bad as Vince basically, we hope.
I think that’s an accurate statement lol
I feel like I did something wrong in a previous life and now I’m being punished by having to watch Vince pitch season after season. I wish they just let him move on already he won’t work out here.
That’s not a high bar to match,
Can’t be as bad as Vince basically, we hope.
Also, calling all 2008 WS MVPs hopefully
I think he’s gotta be sitting by his phone on max volume at this point…
Where’s Jamie Moyer?
Wonder if they needed a think tank to come up with that idea. Not sure what gut feeling or analytics told them to use him in mop-up duty for no reason and waste his innings.
this could either go really good or bad…
Yea. I’m hopeful, but he’s not ready. I get fans impatience, but I don’t think Howard is going to be a reliable starter overnight.
He’s missed that year in the minors.
ain’t that the truth….I prefer Dave going out and find a few arms
Or it could be okay
I Beg To Differ
I can understand why the Phillies are doing this if Bryan Mitchell is an alternative.
i doubt they actually see Mitchell as an option as the article says
More of a kick return guy
I was talking about Velasquez, was a topic about the Phils. Who’s talking about the NFL dfraft here?
I Beg To Differ
Go to profoorballrumors.
You’ll find draft topics there.
Aaron, Zack, and Zach (AZZ) have been really good. I don’t think Spencer Howard will provide anything better than the other two debacles tho.
It would be great to see him to well this time around in the majors, but Medina is also an intriguing option if Howard struggles.
It would be nice to have another pitcher out of their system do well in the rotation.
He isn’t ready for rotation.
Hmmm he can be a fine 4-5 inning starter
Hey Phillies’ fans, Matt Moore sucks, right. It’s ok, you can be open about it. Us Rangers’ fans have had to suffer the same fate. I’ll give you a shoulder to cry on….
It was a worthy experiment based on his last season in Japan. And hey, he looked good in Spring Training and gave us all false hope. So yay. But yea, he sucks.
and he also looked good before the injury in Detroit
It’s only been 3 starts. People are pushing the panic button quickly.
File this under “duh”. You need innings from your starters and Howard can give you them. If you have to go back to starting Vinny, (in April twice ) , your offseason plan failed.
I can say the same about closing with Neris.
Neris is shaky but his numbers are typically solid enough to be a non-dominate closer
They could definitely look for an upgrade for closer but he’s been ok so far this year.
They have two former closers on the roster in Kintzler and Bradley, so upgrades aren’t far away. Plus Alvarado probably would be dominant if he could be counted on to throw strikes. I’m still slightly in shock Girardi handed Neris the job again this year…..
Right now it’s Alvarado’s job to take once he gets back to pitching. Kintzler hasn’t looked good so far and I’m sure they would have used Bradley in save situations had he not gotten injured.
the numbers lie
If his splitter is on, he’s nasty. If not, he’s a BP pitcher. I really wish Neris had a third pitch to keep hitters off balance and induce more ground balls.
He brought his slider back and mixes it in here and there. I can’t find a source for pitch type data by pitcher to see how the slider is performing.
I know he’s only pitched 4+ innings so far, but Howard has a really good FIP. I can’t find a similar silver lining for Anderson, Moore or VV.
Dombrowski should trade for either LHSP Matthew Boyd or RHSP Michael Fulmer.
Dombrowski acquired those players previously in trades so he knows them and their performances. Both those guys have almost 2 years of team control left.
Tigers are going no where this year.
Phillies may have to give up a prospect bat and at least 1 prospect or other young pitcher to get either one of those starters.
Boyd is off to a tremendous start. Ditto with Fulmer.
Pick either one of them and work out a deal…
RHSP Morales and a young position player or prospect bat
may be enough to make either of those 2 deals..
Especially now. Boyd’s stock has dropped significantly since he was the hot stove darling a couple years ago.
Boyd’s stock is back up. He is having a breakthrough year so far
He is 2-2 with a 1.82 ERA and a 0.837 WHIP.pitching deep into games.
Don’t think Philadelphia has excess in what the Tigers are looking for-OF!
Phillies could offer young pitching and young minor league position players like SS and OF
Phillies should sign Cole Hamels to a 1 yr deal, he can be that 4th or 5 starter and bring that Jamie Moyer type veteran leadership who can help the younger kids as well.
I would agree, especially for all the points you mention.. My only hesitation is that we all know the fan base. People will expect him to be 2007-2015 Cole Hamels when he, in fact now, 2008 Jamie Moyer.
I personally think if he could come back and give 5-6IP of 3ER for this and maybe next season, it would be a perfect twilight on is career for both him and us Phillies fans.
There is a reason why all 30 teams have passed on Hamels. Every team has scouting reports, and have seen him him pitch the last 2 years. Obviously he is washed up. The wishful wannabe armchair GMs don’t have this information that all MLB teams have on players. He would be no better than Moore or Anderson. Fans hopes and dreams unfortunately don’t come true in real life
Definitely they should talk with Hamels. He is left handed and has a lot of experience that would help the entire staff. He still wants to pitch and still has his change up
I agree but they have to be willing to go over the luxury tax. I wish they would’ve non-tendered Vinny V so they would have some extra cash.
Plus they could have kept Tony Watson. Dude has a 1.35 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 8 games for the Angels. The only run he has given up was a solo shot to Carlos Santana.
Vinny was extended by MacPhail before Dombrowski came aboard. I’m sure he would have taken Velasquez 4 mil and Moore 3 mil and acquired a better rotation piece.
Stan the Man
Don’t forget, we have Mark Appel…
Stan the Man
Minor league schedules are really unique this year due to Covid…it should be fun to see how it plays out.
Dunno. But, I am confident that Dombrowski will pick up at least 1 rotation reinforcement by the Trade deadline. Would rather get someone by May or June before the Division starts to develop separation between teams..