Player: Nick Howard
Drafted by: Cincinnati Reds
DOB: 04/06/1993 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 215 pounds
Previously Drafted: Never
Nick Howard ranked as one of the top two-way players in the country for Virginia last season, as the infielder posted a .794 OPS with 17 extra-base hits and 38 RBI in 50 games to go along with a 3.38 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 61.1 innings as a member of the starting rotation.
Named as a finalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award heading into the 2014 season, Howard’s production dropped off considerably this spring, as he finished the year with a disappointing .647 OPS and 25 strikeouts in only 43 games.
Howard’s performance on the mound was far from a disappointment, though, as the right-hander made a smooth transition from the starting rotation to the bullpen, where he quickly emerged as one of the top closers in college baseball. Specifically, Howard amassed 19 saves this spring to go along with a 2.15 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 29.1 innings (15.34 K/9).
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 20-80 scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
6’4”, 215-pound right-hander has very strong core and lower half; impressive combination of strength and athleticism; delivery is powerful and efficient, with good trunk rotation and finish; arm action is explosive but does have an element of stiffness.
Potential plus-plus pitch that consistently registers 94-96 (T98) mph with excellent late life; jumps on opposing hitters thanks to clean delivery; present feel for changing eye levels vertically.
Inconsistent offering that flashes plus; thrown in the low 80s with nasty, 12-to-6 shape and good depth; can get around the ball at times and impart more side-to-side action; potential swing-and-miss offering with refinement.
Showed a serviceable changeup as a starter; thrown with good arm speed at 83-86 mph; pitch will require further development should he remain a starter; less important as a reliever due to success of fastball/curveball.
Projects for above-average control of at least two pitches out of the bullpen; trusts his stuff and attacks opposing hitters; consistently around the plate with fastball but too often works up in the zone; athleticism aids future control profile in either role; good overall feel for pitching with plenty of room for improvement.
Development of command will be crucial as a starter but is less important as a late-inning reliever; walks have never been an issue for the right-hander; both fastball and breaking ball command is slightly below average at the present; potential to be average with refinement in minor leagues.
MLB Player Comparison: Corey Knebel
Knebel was the first true reliever selected in last year’s draft (Tigers, second round) and recently became the second player (the first was Howard's teammate last season, left-hander Kyle Crockett) from the 2013 class to reach the major leagues. Howard has the same potential to climb the ladder in a hurry and could conceivably help a big league club within a year.
Projection: Late-inning reliever
Major Leagues ETA: Late 2016 (starter)/mid-2015 (reliever)
Chances of Signing: 85 percent
Howard’s stock is on the rise heading into the draft, as he previously offered a glimpse of his potential as a starter and continues to showcase his potential as a late-inning reliever. The only reason he might not sign is if he decides to return to Virginia next season in order to prove he can be a position player at the next level.