According to an official release, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed 24th round draft pick Justin Howard. Howard, a senior from the University of New Mexico, hit for a .456 average in his senior season, with ten homers in 261 at-bats.
Howard injured his left knee in a collision in an NCAA Regional Finals game against Minnesota, which Howard claims caused his stock to drop. Howard said he was hearing he could go in the top ten rounds before the injury. Howard didn’t have much leverage as a college senior, so it’s unlikely this affected the signing, but the long term results probably were a factor.
Howard doesn’t hit for much power, but is an excellent hitter. As a first baseman with poor defense, his bat is his only skill. Howard will have to hit for a good average to be considered any type of prospect for the Pirates, due to the lack of power. He will likely start in either the GCL, or with State College.
An interesting note on Howard: he played JuCo with Pirates prospect Brock Holt at Navarro College, where the two players were roommates.
The draft pick signing tracker is updated with the move. The Pirates have now signed 11 picks.
UPDATE 5:21 PM: A note on Howard’s numbers, he played in a very hitter friendly park, which led to a boost in his statistics. Howard had a .456/.508/.709 line with New Mexico, but his park adjusted stat line (thanks to College Splits) was .410/.468/.640.