The Yankees announced Wednesday that they’ve released right-hander Spencer Howard. The former top prospect, acquired from the Rangers in exchange for cash prior to the trade deadline, was pitching with the team’s Triple-A affiliate. His release opens a spot on the 40-man roster.
A second-round pick by the Phillies in 2017, Howard ranked among baseball’s top 100 prospects prior to the 2020 and 2021 seasons on the vast majority of publications. He went from the Phils to the Rangers as part of 2021’s Kyle Gibson swap.
Things haven’t panned out for Howard in the Majors. He’s appeared in parts of four seasons but tallied just 115 innings while pitching to a grim 7.20 earned run average. He excelled up through the Double-A level, breezing through the lower levels of the minors with pristine ERAs, strong strikeout rates and mostly sharp walk rates. Injuries have played a significant role in his struggles, as he’s battled shoulder trouble at multiple points and spent the bulk of the current season on the 60-day injured list due to a lat strain.
Howard, 27, struggled to a 5.40 ERA in 18 innings in the Rangers’ system prior to the trade, and his three outings with the Yankees’ top affiliate weren’t any better. He was tagged for five runs on seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. He’s sitting on a 6.86 ERA overall between the two teams’ Triple-A clubs in 2023 and now carries a 4.43 mark in parts of three seasons at that level.
With Howard’s release the Yankees’ 40-man roster is now down to 38 players. That likely sets the stage for them to add a pair of players to the 40-man roster when rosters expand from 26 to 28 players on Friday of this week. The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner reported yesterday that top catching prospect Austin Wells — who’s not on the 40-man roster — is among the likeliest candidates to be selected to the roster Friday. His colleague, Brendan Kuty, later added that the Yankees have also given consideration to promoting top outfield prospect Jasson Dominguez. Like Wells, he’s not on the 40-man roster.
There’s no guarantee just yet that it’ll be Wells and/or Dominguez receiving those September call-ups, though that’d certainly align with the Yankees’ recent youth movement. The Yanks released Josh Donaldson yesterday, firmly signaling that they’ll give young Oswald Peraza a legitimate look at third base down the stretch. They also called up outfielder Everson Pereira for his big league debut and have started him every day since.
Wells, 24, is hitting .243/.335/.447 in 424 plate appearances across three minor league levels (including .262/.355/.467 in 32 Triple-A games). Baseball America currently ranks him as the game’s No. 81 prospect. Dominguez has been generating fanfare since signing as a 16-year-old amateur and currently sits 60th on Baseball America’s list. “The Martian” has only played eight Triple-A games after slashing .254/.367/.414 in 507 Double-A plate appearances, but he’s handled himself quite well in Scranton, going 12-for-27 with a pair of doubles, a triple and more walks (five) than strikeouts (two) in 32 plate appearances.