SAM HOWARD, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
Born: March 5, 1993
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 170
Bats: Right
Throws: Left
Drafted: 3rd Round, 82nd Overall, 2014 (Rockies)
How Acquired: Waiver claim (from Rockies)
College: Georgia Southern University
Agent: N/A

WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE

Howard was a third round draft choice of the Rockies and was regarded as a “pitchability lefty,” according to Baseball America.  He made his way slowly through the Rockies’ system, not reaching the majors until he was 25.  He was a starter until 2019, when Colorado moved him to the bullpen.  As a reliever, Howard throws a 92-93 mph sinker and relies heavily on a slider, throwing it more than his fastball.  He’s had reverse platoon splits throughout his career, sometimes significant ones.  The Pirates acquired him on a waiver claim.

2014
R+:  1-3-0, 5.40 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 53.1 IP, 1.7 BB/9, 7.1 K/9

Colorado started Howard off in advanced rookie ball, where he pitched mainly as a starter.  That’s not a very high level for a third round draftee out of college, but he got hit hard, with opponents batting .333 against him.  Baseball America still ranked him 24th in the Rockies’ system.

2015
A:  11-9-0, 3.43 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 134.0 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 8.2 K/9

Howard moved up to full-season ball and had more success, holding opponents to a 252/297/356 batting line.  He had a reverse platoon split.  BA ranked him 25th in the system after the season.

2016
A+:  4-3-0, 2.47 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 65.2 IP, 3.3 BB/9, 10.0 K/9
AA:  5-6-0, 3.99 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 90.1 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 6.7 K/9

Howard had a strong first half in the hitting-happy California League, including a high K rate.  He had more trouble in AA, with opponents hitting .303 against him there.  BA moved him up to 18th in the system.

2017
AA:  1-4-0, 2.33 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 46.1 IP, 1.9 BB/9, 7.8 K/9
AAA:  4-4-0, 3.89 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 81.0 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 7.1 K/9

Howard made one start in AAA, then went back to AA until mid-June, when he moved back up.  He pitched dramatically better in AA and reasonably well in AAA, considering it was the Pacific Coast League.  He had some control issues for the first time.  He once again had a reverse platoon split.  BA ranked him 11th in the Rockies’ system after the season and Colorado added him to the 40-man roster.

2018
AAA:  3-8-0, 5.06 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 96.0 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 7.5 K/9
MLB:  0-0-0, 2.25 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 4.0 IP, 6.8 BB/9, 2.3 K/9

The Rockies sent Howard back to AAA, where he didn’t pitch quite as well.  The Rockies called him up in June and he made one relief appearance, then three more in September.  He again had a reverse platoon split.  After the season, Colorado removed him from the roster and he re-signed with them on a minor league deal.

2019
AAA:  4-1-1, 3.91 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 50.2 IP, 4.1 BB/9, 11.0 K/9
MLB:  2-0-0, 6.63 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 19.0 IP, 4.7 BB/9, 10.9 K/9

Howard opened the season back in AAA, this time pitching in relief.  He didn’t dominate but was reasonably effective, considering it was the Pacific Coast League in a season in which offenses exploded throughout AAA.  The Rockies called him up in July, optioned him for a couple weeks in August, then brought him back late in the month.  He ended up getting into 20 games with them, all in relief.  At both levels he missed a lot more bats, but in the majors he was plagued by walks and gopher balls, giving up better than one of the latter every four innings.  He had an extreme reverse platoon split, yet the Rockies for some reason used him partially as a lefty specialist.  After the season the Rockies waived Howard and the Pirates claimed him.

2020
MLB:  2-3-0, 3.86 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 21.0 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 11.6 K/9

The Pirates activated Howard early in the season and he ended up as one of their main relievers.  He had a stretch of ten scoreless outings in the middle of the season, and otherwise scuffled a little, mainly due to gopher balls.  He allowed a bit less than one every five innings.  Howard’s xFIP wasn’t as good as his ERA, at 4.45.  He relied very heavily on his slider, throwing it nearly two-thirds of the time.  He didn’t give up many hits, with opponents batting only .221 against him, but over half of the hits he allowed went for extra bases.  The tendency toward long hits may be a result of the heavy slider usage, although it also produced a high K rate.  Howard had a slight reverse platoon split.

Howard was a useful pitcher for the Pirates in 2020, but it isn’t clear whether he has much upside beyond what he’s already shown.  The Pirates are overloaded with middle relievers and need more legitimate late-inning relievers.  They also need lefties, though, and Howard beat veteran Chasen Shreve out for an opening day roster spot.

CONTRACT INFORMATION
2021: Major league minimum
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $672,100
MiLB Debut: 2014
MLB Debut: 6/10/2018
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2025
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2017
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2018)
MLB Service Time: 1.117
TRANSACTIONS
June 10, 2011: Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 48th round, 1449th overall pick.
June 8, 2014:
Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 3rd round, 82nd overall pick; signed on June 12.
November 20, 2017:
Contract purchased by the Colorado Rockies.
November 30, 2018: Non-tendered by the Colorado Rockies and became a free agent.
January 13, 2019: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Colorado Rockies.
July 21, 2019: Called up by the Colorado Rockies.
October 30, 2019: Claimed off waivers from the Colorado Rockies by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

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