Ed Howard – Picture by Stephanie Lynn

Over the past few weeks, I started getting ready for the season by doing some affiliate sneak peaks and looking at where certain prospects might go to start the year. That’s going to continue for the next few weeks and today I’m going to have a passionate discussion about where 2020 first round pick Ed Howard should begin his 2022 campaign.

There are only two choices: Myrtle Beach or South Bend.

It’s that simple.

To begin, let’s retrace what actually happened last year.

At the age of 19, Howard was assigned to Low A Myrtle Beach. He was the opening day shortstop and displayed quickly that he had a glove and arm and that was worthy of his first round selection.

Howard got off to a slow start at the plate before a hamstring injury shut him down for most of May and June. He looked to be overmatched at the plate, especially against college pitchers. He had not played in a lot of games since his junior season in high school because of the pandemic. That’s a huge jump in talent, even with being on the showcase circuit in the fall of 2019.

When Howard returned, we saw glimpses from time to time of the potential he had including a four-for-five night in early July. In those moments, you could see the speed of the bat, the power potential, and the ability to turn on anything on the inside of the plate.

For Howard, he really didn’t get cooking as a player until somewhere in the beginning of August when he began to put some consistent stretches together From the middle of August to the final out on September 19, Howard hit over .300 with a 120 wRC+ along with an OBP of .359 and an OPS of over .800 in that stretch.

But in those stats, are hidden some strange splits. The Carolina League is not known as a hitters league. But for Howard, he actually hit much better at home than he did on the road. A .273 clip at Myrtle Beach is nothing to sneeze at. On the road, it was not pretty as he hit just .169.

In addition, Howard are also had some interesting splits against lefties and righties. He did not do well against southpaws hitting just .160, but he did better against right handers hitting .240 on the year.

If you would’ve asked me on September 19 where I thought Howard should start in 2022, I would’ve said, “Probably Myrtle Beach…for a month.“

In my poll of the week last Saturday, the majority of people thought that’s where Howard should begin this season. There’s only one small problem with that. The Ed Howard that played last year does not exist in 2022.

Development does not take place in a vacuum nor is it linear. The Ed Howard that people knew last year was a lot smaller, less adaptive and less experienced. The Ed Howard that is showing up this spring has been working out in Arizona all winter. He’s taller, stronger, and much more experienced than last year‘s Ed Howard.

While when most of you say that you want Ed Howard to start the year at Myrtle Beach, that judgement is probably influenced by the past experience of what happened with Aramis Ademan who was unwisely moved to Myrtle Beach at the age of 19 with only a few games at Eugene and South Bend under his belt. Ademan struggled for the better part of three seasons to make it through Myrtle Beach before retiring last summer.

However, here’s the thing, and there’s no two ways to get around this: Ed Howard is not Aramis Ademan. Not mentally. Not physically. Not makeup wise. Howard is a totally different kid and he’s going to be 20-years-old. Howard handles himself with a lot of poise, thoughtfulness, and a drive to be better.

Over the next four weeks, Howard is going to be out in Mesa working hard every day to get to South Bend. It is within his reach. It’s where he should be because of his development this winter. 

For a 20-year-old, the amount of time that has passed since last year when the season ended on September 19 is immense for someone that age. A lot can change physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s not an eternity for someone that age, but to those of us over 40 and 50, five months is not a lot of time. However, for a 20-year-old, you can go through some stuff in that span and totally change how you do things.

So when the rosters are announced at the beginning of April, I would be surprised if Howard lands in Myrtle Beach. I’m not going to be surprised if he lands in South Bend.