Phillies Bolster Rotation In Deal For Kyle Gibson, Ian Kennedy From Rangers
Texas traded away two of its veteran arms and cleared Kyle Gibson’s payroll for 2022 as well in a move that brings back one-time top Phillies prospect Spencer Howard, but also involved Texas sending a solid pitching prospect of its own (Hans Crouse) to Philadelphia.
Kyle Gibson, RHP
Last year, it would have been difficult for the Rangers to give Gibson away at the trade deadline. He was half a year into a three-year, $28 million deal and was 1-4, 6.16 when the deadline came and passed. A year later, he’s an all-star who currently has the best ERA (2.83) and FIP (3.75) of his nine-year MLB career. Gibson has added a cutter, but it’s really been the slight sharpening of his fastballs (two-seam and four-seam), slider and curve that have helped him author a turnaround.
Ian Kennedy, RHP
When the season was nearing, all Kennedy could land as a free agent was a minor league deal with the Rangers with an invitation to spring training. He took that opportunity and ran with it, becoming an unlikely closer for the second time in his career. Kennedy picked up his 90th career win before he got his first MLB save. Now he’s four saves away from 50 for his career as he nears his 100th win (he has 97). He should give Philadelphia a veteran arm to plug into a still shaky bullpen. Kennedy has simplified his approach this year, throwing mid-90s fastballs most of the time, getting swings and poor contact by spotting the pitch with plus control and command.
Hans Crouse, RHP
Crouse, who ranked 11th on the Rangers’ midseason Top 30 Prospects list, doesn’t throw as hard as he did in high school, but he has a much better sense of where the pitch is going when he releases it and a better idea of how to trick a hitter. He had bone chips removed from his elbow in 2019. His fastball can still touch 95 mph, but he’s now relying on keeping hitters guessing with a slider and changeup as well.
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Spencer Howard, RHP
Two years ago, the Phillies trading Howard for a pair of veteran arms would have seemed unthinkable. Howard finished 2019 as the team’s No. 1 prospect, a starter who could sit 93-99 mph in his best outings and who had finished the season by dominating in the Arizona Fall League. The only blemish on that season was time he spent on the injured list with shoulder fatigue. Two years later, that first bout of shoulder fatigue seems more important. Howard missed further time in 2020 because of shoulder issues. In 2021, he’s bounced between Philadelphia and Triple-A Lehigh Valley in a hybrid role. He began the year in the Phillies’ bullpen, moved to the Lehigh Valley rotation, came back up to the Phillies as a short-stint starter/reliever and then was sent back to Lehigh Valley to start. Along the way, Howard has thrown 50-70 pitches in most of his outings and has worked five innings only once. He’s reaching the same mid-90s velocity readings he had in the past, but he’s yet to show any confidence in his curve, slider or changeup in the majors. Howard heads to Texas needing a chance to reset and get into a regular role as he aims to fit into the Rangers’ 2022 rotation.
Josh Gessner, RHP
Gessner, signed in June 2019 from Australia for $850,000 to forego a commitment to Tulane, previously pitched for the Sydney Blue Sox in 2017 in the Australian Baseball League. He appeared in six games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League for the Phillies in 2019, posting a 1-0, 2.84 mark with 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 12.2 innings. Like many minor leaguers, Gessner’s growth was stunted by the cancellation of the 2020 season, and he did not appear at the team’s alternate training site or instructional league. Gessner has yet to appear in full-season ball and made three appearances this season in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound righthander relies on a 91-94 mph fastball and a solid slider that he frequently throws against righthanded hitters, although there are questions regarding whether the pitch will inflict much damage at the higher levels. Gessner did not rank among the Phillies Top 30 Prospects at the midseason.
Kevin Gowdy, RHP
Gowdy, a 2016 second-rounder from Santa Barbara (Calif.) High, peaked at No. 11 on the Phillies Top 30 Prospects list in 2017, before dealing with various injuries during the 2017 season including having Tommy John surgery in August 2017 that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2018 season. He returned in 2019 and struggled mightily at Low-A Lakewood, posting an 0-6, 4.68 mark with almost as many walks (51) as strikeouts (53). Gowdy was further set back by the canceled 2020 minor league season and was not present at the alternate training site or instructional league. In 2021 he’s massively reduced his walk rate, walking 15 over 61 innings while striking out 63 with a 4-5, 4.43 mark at High-A Jersey Shore. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound righthander relies on a mid-90s fastball with late movement as well as a hard-breaking slider, but he fails to command either pitch well and neither projects as better than average. After having Tommy John surgery he also ditched his changeup in favor of a splitter as his third pitch. Once praised for his feel for pitching, Gowdy has struggled to put it all together due to injuries and inconsistency. Gowdy did not rank among the Phillies Top 30 Prospects at the midseason.