Howard Killing Double-A; Bennie Released

Two noteworthy news items from last night, or, I suppose, recently:

  1. Sam Howard (Staunton 2012) threw the second-best minor league start of the entire 2017 minor league season last night, a 7-inning one-hit shutout. He walked one a and struck out 4. This puts his Double-A numbers at 1-3, 1.61, with 13 hits, 6 walks, and 24 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched. He has a 0.68 WHIP, and batters are hitting .135 against him. I would not be shocked if Sam bounces to the major leagues at some point this season.
  2. On a sad note, on May 13 the Oakland A’s released former Strasburg Express (2011) Joe Bennie. Joe is coming off a 2016 season in which he was named ATVL’s full season A-ball hitter of the year, after hitting 302/376/449 in 439 at-bats in the California League. He was assigned to Double-A Midland to start 2017, and hit 238/337/350 in 80 at-bats. Over 1,279 career at-bats in the minors, Joe hit a rather robust 275/362/412. He probably struck out too much- 369 times, roughly 25% of his plate appearances- but this release seems pretty quick to me. Perhaps there’s more to the story than what meets the eye.
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Rucinski, Howard Have Great Starts

Two former Valley Leaguers currently in the minor leagues pitched exceeding well over the last couple days.

  • Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10) took a perfect game into the 7th inning on Friday for Triple-A Iowa, and finished with a line of 8 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. His game score was 75. Drew has pitched in the majors with the Angels both in 2014 and 2015, and signed as a minor league free agent with the Cubs. He’s now 3-4, 5.93 in 10 starts in Iowa.
  • Sam Howard (Staunton 2012) didn’t flirt with a perfect game, but he ended up with an even better final line for High-A Modesto Saturday night against San Jose. Sam finished with 8 shutout innings pitched, 2 hits, 3 walks, and 10 strikeouts, which equaled a game score of 85. Sam is now 3-3, 2.65, with 66 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings pitched.

Congrats to both Drew and Sam!

What a Night!

It’s probably not a surprise to some of you, but I take the time to check out every minor league start by a former Valley League pitcher. And I check all the major league boxscores, and I watch transactions, and… well, good enough.

Last night (Wednesday, April 20), five pitchers with ties to the Valley League made starts in the minor leagues, and in all my years of following every day, I haven’t seen a night where, as a whole, they pitched so well.

Here are the five:

  • Chad Kuhl (New Market 2012), for Triple-A Indianapolis: 5 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, a win, game score of 67.
  • Drew Rucinski (Luray 2009-10), for Triple-A Iowa: 6 IP, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts, game score of 62.
  • Sam Howard (Staunton 2012), for High-A Modesto: 5 2/3 IP, 3 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, game score of 68.
  • Max Povse (Staunton 2013), for High-A Carolina: 6 IP, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, loss, game score of 48.
  • Austin Gomber (Luray 2012), for High-A Palm Beach: 6 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts, win, game score of 67.

Wow.

So, combined: 29 1/3 innings, 22 hits, 5 earned runs, 7 walks, 29 strikeouts, 2 wins, 1 loss, 1.54 ERA, 0.9898 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, averaged game score of 62.4.

Sam Howard Named Top Prospect

Sam Howard Asheville baseball cardSam 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.

MLB.com put him at #27:

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!

Howard Named Colorado Prospect

Fangraphs, a website I ¬†find myself spending more and more time perusing, has listed Sam Howard (Staunton 2012) as one of the Colorado Rockies’ top 30 prospects!

Dan Farnsworth is the site’s prospect guru, and he listed Sam at #30 overall, with the following writeup:

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.

“Stuff is around average” doesn’t ring superstar, but then “he may have the command he needs to fit comfortably in the back of a big league rotation” and “could be a nice value in a few years” are very positive.

Sam did indeed have a “stellar year” in 2015. Here’s to another one in 2016!

Sam Howard

Howard Named Colorado Org All-Star

Sam Howard Asheville 09_12_2015Sam Howard (Staunton 2012) has been named an organization all-star for the Colorado Rockies on milb.com!

This is what Tyler Maun wrote about Sam, who was named the top left-handed starter in the Rockies’ system:

Just like (Antonio) Senzatela’s slider gave him a knockout pitch in California, Howard’s did the same to a South Atlantic League-leading 122 K’s in North Carolina. With an 11-9 record and 3.43 ERA, Howard also faced the fourth-fewest baserunners per nine innings at 11.15.

Sam did indeed have an excellent year in 2015. With the above 122 strikeouts, he only walked 32, and a 3.43 ERA is tremendous in the tiny ballpark at Asheville.

Let’s watch for even better things out of Sam in the future!

Minor League Starters for Tuesday, May 19

Let’s take a quick look:

Tuesday

  • Sam Howard (Staunton 2012) for A Asheville: 6 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 1 earned, 1 BB, 3 K’s, win, 7-3, game score of
    Sam Howard

    Sam Howard

    58. This is Sam’s third start excellent start in a row, and he’s now 2-4, 4.08 in 35.1 innings.

  • Taylor Hill (Winchester 2008) for AAA Syracuse: 4 IP, 11 hits, 4 earned runs, 0 BB, 4 K’s, loss, 5-4, game score of 28. Taylor is now 3-1, 4.57 in 45.1 innings.
  • Harrison Cooney (Front Royal 2012) for A Inland Empire: 5.2 IP, 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 BB, 2 K’s, win, 8-3, game score of 48. Harrison is now 1-2, 4.46 in 42.1 innings.

Scheduled for Wednesday, May 20

  • Max Povse (Staunton 2013), for A Rome
  • Scott Copeland (Staunton 2007), for AAA Buffalo