50 in 50: Dillon Howard

Draft : : Top Prospects
David Rawnsley        
Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dillon Howard
RHP / Searcy High School

Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Hometown: Searcy, Ark.
College Commitment: Arkansas
Birthdate: July 1, 1992

Arkansas is hardly a hotbed of high-school baseball talent, and Howard has a realistic chance to become the highest draft from the state since Arkansas High (Texarkana) righthanders Dustin Moseley in 2000 (34th overall/Reds) and Tony McKnight in 1995 (22nd overall/Astros), and possibly even since Pine Bluff High outfielder Torii Hunter in 1993 (20th overall/Twins). Bryant High lefthander Travis Wood (60th overall/Reds, 2005) is the only Arkansas prep product to be picked in the top 60 since Moseley. Notably, all three pitchers became big leaguers. Howard has been considered a near first-round lock since he was clocked at 92 mph in his first high-school appearance as a freshman, and homered in his first at-bat. He touched 95 mph frequently at the 2008 World Wood Bat Association Underclass World Championship early in his sophomore year at Searcy High, but it was obvious then that he was probably close to reaching the top of his physical capability as he was a strong, physical athlete even at that age. In fact, any draft forecaster or scout who refers to Howard today as a “projectable” young pitcher is woefully naïve, as Howard throws no harder now than he did three years ago. What Howard has done over that period is an outstanding job of developing himself mechanically, and becoming a “pitcher” instead of a “thrower”. He still has a very fast arm and the ball comes out of his hand very easily with little effort. His steady 91-95 mph fastball gets very nice running action at times, and he’s increasingly able to spot the pitch to different parts of the strike zone. Howard throws two types of breaking balls, a 78-mph true curveball with tight spin and a deep, 11-to-5 shape, and an 82-mph slider that is more of a flatter, slurvy version of his curve, though has good depth. His slider will likely take on a different identity at the professional level as minor-league pitching instructors are likely to turn it into a tighter, mid-80s power pitch. Howard has always thrown a changeup in the low-80s, but understandably hasn’t focused much on developing that pitch yet, although his delivery and ability to put movement on his fastball are signs that he should be able to master it with repetitions. Though Howard has dominated his competition in Arkansas since his freshman year, and often has caught and played every infield position when not pitching, his Searcy High team lost in the 6-A state final in each of the last three years. This year’s setback was the most gut-wrenching for Howard. He was cruising along with a tidy one-hitter through six innings, and took a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead into the final inning. But Jacksonville High scored four runs in the seventh to tie the game 5-5, the final three coming on a two-out, two-strike, bases-loaded double. With Howard moving to shortstop in the eighth inning, Jacksonville quickly pushed across the winning run for an unlikely 6-5 victory. To add insult to injury, Howard went 0-for-4 in the cleanup spot. A year earlier, Howard was unable to take the mound in the state final because of a minor shoulder injury. While Howard’s otherwise distinguished prep career ended on a sour note, he has the draft squarely in his sights. His signability could be an interesting puzzle for scouts to figure out, though, as he is being advised by the Boras Corporation, which has a documented history of steering high-school clients to college before entering professional baseball. In addition, Howard would be eligible to re-enter the draft as a college sophomore, due to his age, if he chooses to honor his scholarship to Arkansas. If those factors aren’t enough for Howard to ponder, his stature as one of the top high-school prospects ever raised and developed in Arkansas may put added pressure on him to play for the extremely-popular state school, and potentially even lead that program to its first-ever College World Series title.

Projected Draft Position:
Late First Round/Sandwich Round

Perfect Game Events Attended
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