Diamondbacks Prospect #48: P Adam Howard

Everyone was impressed - and rightfully so - when Justin Upton advanced three levels from Hi-A Visalia to the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. Well, right-hander Adam Howard made a similar ascension, going from Low-A South Bend to Triple-A Tucson in the blink of an eye.


Name: Adam Howard
Draft: 44th Round, 2004
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
DOB: 8/16/1983
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 200 lbs
B/T: R/R


There are, of course, more differences than similarities between the three-level jumps of Justin Upton and Adam Howard.  Many people expected this kind of meteoric rise out of a #1 overall pick.  Howard, however, was selected 1,313th overall in 2004.  Upton proved first that he could dominate Double-A before reaching the majors, while Howard enjoyed mixed success at Hi-A Visalia prior to his brief promotion.  Upton was counted on to be the primary right fielder for a playoff-contending ball club, while Howard made but a spot appearance before returning to Hi-A Visalia. 

One thing you can't take away from Howard is how well he performed in that appearance; he allowed just one unearned run while recording 10 outs, four of which were via strikeout.  Granted, it's not at all unheard of for a 23-year old to succeed in Triple-A, but this did serve to put the previously faceless Adam Howard on our prospect radar. 

Truthfully, he probably should have been on that radar all along.  The real surprise was not that Howard was able to perform at higher levels; it was that he began the season at South Bend after posting sub-2.00 earned run averages there for the past two seasons.  One of his catchers at South Bend, Justin Brashear, echoed that sentiment.

"I didn't really understand why he was in South Bend - not to knock on the organization," Brashear quickly hedged.  "I just thought he was good enough for High-A or Double-A out of spring training.

After seven strong appearances in the Midwest League, the organization finally gave Howard a chance to succeed at higher levels.  He allowed three homers and six hits in just an inning of work during his second appearance with the Oaks, but had thrown 14.2 scoreless innings there otherwise before receiving that quick call to Tucson. 

Howard was chosen to eat some innings at Tucson because the Diamondbacks' 40-man roster had just gone through a meat grinder.  Players were being shuttled around due to Randy Johnson's injury, the acquisition of Aaron Cunningham, and the downfall of Alberto Callaspo.  Howard turned in a much better performance than simply an inning-eating stopgap, of course.

In his first appearance upon returning to Visalia, Howard then recorded his first professional save.  This was truly a memorable season from a pitcher who had been overlooked in an organization deep with talent.  

2004 Missou Pio 20 Rk 1 1 4.36 9 5 33.0 36 18 16 4 7 27 1.30
2005 Yakima Nwst 21 A- 4 5 4.29 13 13 71.1 88 36 34 8 12 59 1.40
  S Bend Midw 21 A 2 2 2.56 20 1 31.2 29 11 9 2 11 16 1.26
2006 S Bend Midw 22 A 9 5 3.90 30 20 134.0 138 64 58 7 30 101 1.25
2007 S Bend Midw 23 A 1 2 1.32 7 0 13.2 11 2 2 0 1 8 0.88
  Visalia Cali 23 A+ 4 2 3.52 23 11 84.1 87 38 33 6 23 74 1.30
  Tucson PCL 23 AAA 1 0 0.00 1 0 3.1 3 1 0 0 0 4 0.90
Minor League Totals 22 17 3.69 103 50 371.1 392 170 152 27 84 289 1.28

Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube

Makeup: That save didn't come as too much of a surprise, however.  Wellington Cepeda, the pitching coach at South Bend last year, told us that Howard would have been the first reliever that would be used to make a spot start due to his ability to succeed in either a starter or relief role.  It turned out that the Silver Hawks did not need Howard to do this before his promotion, but Cepeda clearly had confidence in Howard's mental makeup to perform whatever was asked of him on a given day.

It's not entirely surprising for a low-round draft choice to have that kind of team-first attitude.  Players drafted out of Walters State Community College don't often come with Prima Donna egos, probably because no player from there has ever graduated to the major leagues.         

Pitches:  Howard's repertoire makes us believe that he could be the first Walters alumnus to get there.  He throws a low-90s fastball that seems to explode up in the zone.  He compliments that with an overhand 12-to-6 curveball that often serves as his out pitch.  A deceptive straight change rounds out Howard's offerings.  All three pitches rank solid-average right now, and Howard can throw any one of them at any time in the count for strikes.

Prediction: Howard's repertoire and size scream starting pitcher.  He's battling a lot of other younger, more highly-touted right-handers for rotation spots, however, meaning that if and when he makes the majors, he will likely break in as a reliever/occasional spot starter.

Major League Clone: Taylor Buchholz

ETA: Howard opened some eyes this season, and could advance quickly after showing that he could handle both the California League and the PCL, the two most hitter-friendly leagues in the minors.  A September callup in 2009 is very likely, with an earlier debut possible.  By 2010, The Diamondbacks will need to find a roster spot for Howard or grant him free agency.        

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