||Born: August 28, 1987
Height: 6′ 0″
Drafted: 24th Round, 717th Overall, 2010
How Acquired: Draft
College: New Mexico
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Pirates sent Howard back to Altoona, where he played mostly outfield and DH. He didn’t hit nearly as well as the previous year. In late July, the team sent him down to Bradenton shortly after promoting Josh Bell to Altoona. Howard played left and hit much better there, as you’d expect. He didn’t hit LHPs at all anywhere.
Howard’s bat should be better than he showed in 2014. He won’t be a minor league free agent for another two years, so he could return to Altoona in 2015.