Tuesday, June 14, 2005

J.P. Howell Report

J.P.Howell, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 31st Overall, 2004 Draft, Texas
Bats L/Throws L
22 YO, 6'0", 180 lbs

I've been trying to write this report for a week and a half now. Part of the problem I've been having is that I tried to make it not just a prospect report, but also a status report on the Royals franchise. I almost had it completed, but I had some technical problems, some burnout, and the Royals got REALLY ambitious and promoted him to AAA Omaha and THEN to the majors, which I completely didn't see coming.

Howell is a part of the hope that I carry around for my favorite team. He's a classic finesse lefty, but one with a lot of upside, courtesy of his sick breaking stuff. He doesn't have a ton of velocity. He maxes out just short of 90 MPH, and works a couple ticks below that on the gun most of the time, but he has uncanny control of both location and speed. And he varies between 2 and 4 seem grips. The two seam has a break inside the zone and the 4 seam has a sinking action. He also has really brutal breaking stuff with a curve that he can control for both location and break. Finally, he has a splitter that drops off the table.

Howell elicits a lot of comparisons to Zach Greinke, and for good reason. He's the same kind of pitcher. He does a lot of the same kinds of things. It's reasonable to think that the scouting brass took a look at their most recent success story and tried to emulate it. Howell is one of 3 similar pitchers they took last year. Matt Campbell has lost his command and Bill Buckner is following right in Howell's footsteps. On the other hand, it isn't a completely fair comparison since Howell is actually older than Greinke already. Still, Howell is a breakout star in the minors who is rocketing up to the majors like he's wearing JATO's. Whether you do it through velocity or break, the big thing is to miss bats. Howell misses bats.

2005 High Desert: 1.96 ERA, 48 K, 24 BB, 33 H, 2 HR, 46 IP
2005 Wichita: 2.50 ERA, 23 K, 5 BB, 12 H, 2 HR, 18 IP
2005 Omaha: 5.06 ERA, 2 K, 4 BB, 7 H, 0 HR, 5 IP
2004 Idaho Falls: 2.77 ERA, 38 K, 12 BB, 16 H, 1 HR, 26 IP
mL Career: 2.46 ERA, 111 K, 45 BB, 68 H, 5 HR, 95 IP

He had a stunningly effective ML debut, striking out 8 in 5 innings while allowing only one run for the win. I honestly have no idea how he'll translate at this level for the rest of the season. Pushing a guy this far this fast is always a ticket to unpredictable results. Furthermore, for better or worse, I'm not particularly fond of the strategy. I'd rather see them give Howell at least a half season in Omaha before throwing him to the wolves. Then again, Allard Baird has done a lot of flaky things this season. I like Howell in the long term, but with the rapid ascent and resulting lack of good stats, it's really hard for me to isolate exactly HOW much I like him.

ETA: Now, whether I like it or not
4 Stars

Note: I apologize for the lack of activity around here. As I mentioned before, I've had a touch of burnout that I'm trying to overcome. I won't abandon this blog, but I think that the pace of updates probably won't return to its previous levels until probably the offseason. Doing prospect reports is hard, time-consuming work. Check that, doing INFORMATIVE prospect reports is something that is hard and time-consuming. I strive to make these reports informative, entertaining, and well-written. As I continue to do this, I think I get progressively better at it, as my early stuff was little more than basic, one-paragraph blurbs. I'd also like to expand into more editorial content, dealing with whole organizations. I'll also start revisiting some of the over 300 players we've already talked about. This requires a lot of work as well. Stay tuned. I'm not going to abandon you or this work.

There are more and more places to read about prospects with evry passing day. However, there still aren't enough. In the introduction to his book The Juice, Will Carroll says that he started writing the book because it was something he wanted to read and nobody else had gotten around to writing it. That's pretty close to how I feel about this. I think there should be a website that you can tune into regularly and find something about a prospect you'd never heard of, and another report on a prospect that you know by heart.

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