The Pirates picked up left-handed relief pitcher Sam Howard off waivers from the Colorado Rockies as the first move of the post-Neal Huntington era. Howard will be a possible lefty option out of the bullpen for the 2020 season.
Howard has very limited MLB experience and has yet to prove he has the ability to stick with a big league team long-term.
The 26-year-old Howard, a 2014 third-round pick (82nd overall) by the Rockies, appeared in 20 games for Colorado, pitching 19 innings and posting a 6.63 ERA (6.27 FIP), 1.63 WHIP, a 2.30 K/BB-rate, and a 2.37 HR/9.
We are working with small samples on Howard, but even the prospect projections aren’t very high on his abilities.
Howard has a so-so low-90s fastball, slightly above average slider, and a mediocre changeup that showed signs of improving as he increased its usage in the minors. However, not throwing a single change in 2019, he has resigned himself to a fastball/slider reliever more suited for mop up duty and the occasional lefty specialist situations.
Depending on whom the Pirates hire for their new pitching coach, its possible Howard could become a steady middle reliever. Howard held a 3.61 ERA with a nearly 3-1 K-BB ratio through 50 and two-thirds innings for the Albuquerque Isotopes this past season.
So long as lefty Steven Brault remains in the rotation (he deserves another shot), the Pirates don’t have many other alternatives in terms of left-handed relievers. Williams Jerez, picked up off waivers from the Anaheim Angles back on September 13th, and another late-season waiver claim, Wei-Chung Wang (from the Oakland Athletics), are the only other lefties that present themselves as options out of the bullpen.