JUSTIN HOWARD
FIRST BASEMAN
Born: August 28, 1987
Height: 6′ 0″
Weight: 205
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Drafted: 24th Round, 717th Overall, 2010
How Acquired: Draft
College: New Mexico
Agent: N/A
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
Howard went to Navarro JC and then to New Mexico, where he had a huge year as a senior. His stats require some caution, as the Lobos hit .346 as a team, and he appeared to have more doubles than HR power. Still, he made great progress with his plate discipline, aside from just mashing the ball. He’s not good defensively and has average speed. He also suffered a knee injury shortly before the draft. The exact nature of it wasn’t known at the time. Howard stated that he expected to be drafted much earlier and that the injury was the reason he wasn’t.

2010
R:  341/420/477, 44 AB, 6 2B, 6 BB, 12 K, 1-1 SB

Joined the GCL Pirates for the final three weeks of their season.  He hit well, as you’d expect from a 23-year-old in rookie ball.

2011
A:  262/369/393, 450 AB, 37 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 78 BB, 112 K, 9-16 SB

Spent the year with West Virginia.  With Matt Curry at first, Howard played mostly in the outfield, which at least will help his versatility.  Once Curry got promoted to Altoona, Howard played first.  He showed only a decent bat, hitting 262/369/393.  He had a lot of doubles and walks, but six HRs isn’t enough for a first baseman who strikes out once every four ABs.  He had a pretty significant platoon split, with a .663 OPS against LHPs and .797 against RHPs.

2012
A+:  283/382/379, 272 AB, 14 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 44 BB, 55K, 3-9 SB

Howard had a solid season, hitting for average, drawing walks and cutting down significantly on his K rate.  Unfortunately, he hit for even less power.  He didn’t play very much the first two months, but got into about two-thirds of the team’s games the last two months.  He played a little at first and in right, but was mainly a DH.  All of his HRs and triples came against LHPs, leading to a better OPS against them than against RHPs.

2013
AA:  314/405/459, 283 AB, 15 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 38 BB, 62 K, 7-13 SB

Howard went to Altoona as a corner utility player and didn’t play much in the early going.  He got into only 20 games in April and May.  In June, though, he got red hot, batting .386 for the month.  More playing time also opened up when Matt Curry got hurt and later Andrew Lambo was promoted.  Howard played regularly the rest of the year.  He even started hitting for power in August, with five of his eight HRs and a .548 slugging average.  Except for a few games in the outfield, Howard spent his time at first.  He wore out RHPs, posting a .901 OPS against them, but had only a .734 OPS against LHPs.

Howard has a good bat and the fact that he started showing more power in 2013 helps, but he turned 26 at the end of the season, so it’s still very questionable whether he has major league potential.  He was eligible for the Rule 5 draft in the off-season but wasn’t selected.  The Pirates will return him to Altoona in 2014, where he’ll probably see time at first, in the outfield and as DH.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MiLB.com

NCAA
BA
OBP
SA
AB
2B
3B
HR
BB
K
SB
CS
2009
.309
.379
.546
152
16
1
6
15
25
0
1
2010
.456
.508
.709
261
32
2
10
31
18
6
5
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2014: Minor League Contract
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2010
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: 2016
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: 2013
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
TRANSACTIONS
June 8, 2010: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 24th round, 717th overall pick; signed on June 25.