Howard Time

He is arguably the best position player prospect in the Phillies farm system, and Ryan Howard is absolutely tearing up AA pitching. With all of this trade talk swirling throughout the major leagues, it is apparent that now just may be the time to call Howard up to AAA to show what he can do against the big boys.

Long before the Phillies threw themselves at Jim Thome and signed the power hitting veteran first baseman Philadelphians have come to know and love, Ryan Howard was projected as the club's first baseman of the future. Now, with Thome serving as a major league roadblock for Howard, he is and rightfully so, reduced to a very hot prospect to be used as a bargaining chip at the trading table.

Drafted in 2001, Howard spent all of last year serving as the first baseman for the Clearwater Phillies. To say that Howard's numbers were impressive is an enormous understatement. Check these out; in 130 games Howard notched 23 homeruns, 82 RBI (seven short of winning the triple crown), and compiled a .304 batting average en route to winning the Florida State League MVP award. What may be more impressive is the fact that in his first ever professional game at Batavia, Howard collected his first hit, home run and RBI all in the same game against Jamestown and also put together a streak in which he posted an RBI in seven straight games.

This season, Howard is playing at AA Reading and has already hit 21 homeruns with 58 RBI (both are good enough to lead the Eastern League) and is batting .290.

Nobody is saying that Howard has the chance, or should even have the right to replace Jim Thome this season, or in the foreseeable future for that matter. However, he is proving that if given the chance he has a better than average shot to be a pretty solid major league player, if not this year, then a few years down the line for some other club. With that being said, this is the perfect time to promote the power hitting phenom to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

If and when Ryan Howard makes his AAA debut this season, his already high stock will certainly skyrocket. Howard has already shown what he can do against pitchers on the A and AA level, and given the chance he would undoubtedly show the same skills at the next level. He already possesses all of the tools of a solid AAA or major league player, being able to hit for average, drive in runs, and oh yeah, he's known to hit a homerun or two as well.

There is no question about it. The Phillies must pull the trigger on some type of move very shortly, if for no other reason than to keep pace with the Marlins who just bolstered their bullpen by adding Billy Koch and the Mets who traded for Richard Hidalgo, giving up basically a bag of baseballs in exchange.

The Phillies have obvious holes and they are as follows: center field, leadoff hitter and starting pitching, if Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla can't return quickly from injuries. If Ed Wade wants to avoid another late season tailspin he must act fast in order to acquire the player or players that are needed to put this team over the top.

If Wade is half the general manager he thinks he is, then he must make a move shortly and he definitely has the prospects to put together a pretty attractive package. With Ryan Howard as the headliner of any trade, Wade could possibly pull the trigger on a major trade without parting ways with other more prized prospects he seems to be saving for a rainy day.

Again, Ryan Howard will not be a Philadelphia Phillie because of Jim Thome, and that isn't a bad thing. But with his raw talent and the pressing needs of the big club, doesn't Wade owe it to himself and his prospect to at least give him the chance to showcase himself at the next level?

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