Prospect Retro: Steve Howe
Steve Howe was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1979, 16th overall, from the University of Michigan. Assigned to Double-A San Antonio after the draft, he went 6-2, 3.13 in 13 starts, with a 57/22 K/BB ratio in 95 innings. Although his strikeout rate wasn't particularly impressive, Howe was able to jump from the Big Ten to the Texas League and remain an effective pitcher. I think a Grade A- would be appropriate.
Howe surprisingly earned a spot in the Dodgers bullpen in 1980, saving 17 games with a 2.66 ERA and earning Rookie of the Year honors. He threw quite hard (although his strikeout rate was below average) and quickly became a national figure. He was named Rookie of the Year, and seemed on his way to a successful career. He pitched brilliantly at times for the Dodgers in 1981 through 1983, but was bedeviled by personal demons. Addicted to drugs and alcohol, he was unable to rehab successfully or consistently. Released by the Dodgers in July of 1985, he was signed as a free agent by the Twins, but fell off the wagon again and was released that September.
Howe ended up having a 17-year career, alternating seven drug-related suspensions (including a "lifetime ban" that was later rescinded) with good pitching performances. He finished with 91 saves and a career ERA of 3.03. In prospect terms, Howe went from college to the majors with only a half-season of Double-A under his belt. Would extra "seasoning" in the minors have helped him deal with his personal issues? Probably not. Howe's problems seemed to me like they were very deep-seated in his personality. I hope that he has some peace now.
Comparable Pitchers to Steve Howe