Pirates claim lefty reliever Howard from Rockies

The Pirates claimed left-handed pitcher Sam Howard off waivers from the Rockies Wednesday.

Howard was considered one of the best pitching prospects in the Rockies' farm system a few years ago, ranking 12th overall in the Colorado system in 2017, according to MLB Pipeline. However, he struggled when he made the jump to Triple-A and was moved to the bullpen last season.

Howard has pitched 23 major-league innings over the last two years, going 2-0 with a 5.87 ERA and a 6.16 FIP. He made 42 appearances in Triple-A Albuquerque last season, all in relief, and finished with a 3.91 ERA over 50.2 IP. While he got a healthy amount of strikeouts, fanning 28.7% of minor league batters he faced last season, he also had a control problem. His 10.7% walk rate was uncharacteristically high.

He has one option year remaining.

Howard has a two pitch mix: A four-seam fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s and a slider. His breaking ball averaged a spin rate of 2,339 RPM last season and he got below average vertical and horizontal movement with it, according to Baseball Savant. His fastball has a little more spin than most heaters at that speed, but it only got an average amount of movement.

The waiver claim means the Pirates now have 47 players on their 40 man roster, including players on the 60-day injured list. They will need to get that number down to at least 40 within five days of the end of the World Series, Nov. 4. Three of those spots will be cleared when Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall's contracts expire and they become free agents.

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