The Cal Poly media guide that was printed before this season said Spencer Howard was "expected to be one of the top relievers out of the bullpen or a potential Sunday or midweek starter as a sophomore."

Howard, who almost quit baseball three years ago, did not exactly begin the season riding a hype train. But he ended it with the Phillies making him a second-round pick.

The righthanded pitcher emerged this year with a 1.95 ERA in in 87 2/3 innings. He made five relief appearances before pushing himself into Cal Poly's starting rotation. Howard struck out 97 batters and pairs a mid-90s fastball with a curveball, slider, and change-up. Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies director of amateur scouting, called him a power pitcher.

"We felt that this righthander's fastball was one of the best in the country. Not measuring velocity, but measuring the action, the deception, and the ability to use it," Almaraz said. "He's somebody that we rank really high across the country and felt that he was the top righthanded arm."

Howard, who turns 21 in July, was not recruited out of high school and considered playing volleyball instead during his senior year. He decided to stick with baseball and walked-on at nearby Cal Poly. Howard made the team and redshirted before spending his freshman season as a reliever. A year later, he was out of the bullpen and was headed to the Phillies.

"They gave him the opportunity to start and he took it and he ran with it," Almaraz said. "Our west coast supervisor Darrell Conner called me. He was all over this kid. This kid just kept getting better, and better, and better. We felt to get him that we were going to have to take him where we took him. Starting pitching is hard to come by. This was one of the few guys in the draft that we felt had a chance to be a front-line guy."