Sam Howard (Staunton 2012) is the 7th former Valley Leaguer named a top prospect by one or more media outlets! Picked in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft, Sam has worked his way up to High-A Modesto in 2016. He’s started one game so far, and struck out 6 batters in 4 1/3 innings pitched.
First of all, Fangraphs named Sam the 30th best prospect in the Colorado system:
Howard progressed well in 2015 with a stellar year in the South Atlantic League including a run of 22.2 scoreless innings. Though his stuff is around average across the board, he may have the command he needs to fit comfortably in the back of a big league rotation. His fastball sits in the low-90s with little movement but great location, while his slider is a sharp, downward-breaking pitch that has strikeout potential when he locates it. His changeup is exceptional for how well he replicates his fastball arm speed, making it another average to tick above pitch. He will have to earn every step up the ladder, but Howard could be a nice value in a few years.
Known more as a pitchability left-hander when he was at Georgia Southern, Howard worked with the Rockies to add more balance to his delivery after signing as a third-round pick in 2014. The adjustment helped him gain more consistent velocity and command, and he led the low Class A South Atlantic League in strikeouts (122) and strikeout rate (8.2 per nine innings) during his first full pro season. He surged in the second half, going 9-1 with a 2.39 ERA in his final 13 starts.
Howard now operates regularly in the low 90s and has reached as high as 96 mph with his fastball, which has quality sink that yields a lot of groundouts. His changeup has tumble and he throws it with deceptive arm speed. After throwing both a curveball and slider in college, he now operates with just the latter, which shows potential but still gets slurvy.
Howard never had trouble throwing strikes but learned during a rough pro debut that he needed to operate down in the strike zone. He could begin to advance quickly through the Minors, eventually winding up in Coors Field as a No. 4 starter.
And lastly, John Sickels has him the highest, at #18:
Age 23, polished strike thrower drafted out of Georgia Southern in third round in 2014, 3.43 ERA with 122/32 K/BB in 134 innings in Low-A, ground ball pitcher with low-90s fastball, average-to-plus change-up, decent slider, throws strikes. More of a potential number four but could move quickly from this point.
Sam is the last alumnus to be listed in three places, but we still have 7 more (at this point) to cover. Stay tuned!