I know, I know. JP Howell is still pitching very successfully in the big leagues, but don’t you wish he was doing it for the KC Royals?
The Royals drafted the California lefty out of the University of Texas in the first round of the 2004 draft (31st overall). He made his big league debut about a year later (June 11, 2005) while playing at four levels (the three upper levels of the Royals minor league system and the big leagues). It was a bit of a rush job (something the Royals were accustomed to doing with good young pitchers back then) and he suffered early on because of it.
Howell was traded during the 2006 for speedy Joey Gathright. Look how that worked out for the Royals. You can check out some analysis on this deal HERE.
It didn’t start out so smoothly for Howell with the then-Devil Rays, as he was still fighting to be a starter. In 2007 with Triple-A Durham (21 starts), he was just 7-8, but had a 3.38 ERA over 128 innings. He allowed 110 hits and 34 walks while striking out 145. So much for not being able to get hitters out with lesser velocity.
After losing out to Edwin Jackson for a rotation spot in 2008, Howell made the transition to the bullpen, a move that has paid out in the long run. Plus, being a reliever suits his personality better.
Howell went on to be an integral part of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen when they represented the American League in the 2008 World Series.
Howell had a few bumps, mainly a torn labrum in his shoulder that kept him out all of 2010 and some of 2011 (seven minor league outings before pitching in 46 big league games). He was back to form in 2012, pitching in 55 games for the Rays with a 3.04 ERA.
The Rays let Howell walk and he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2013 season ($2.85 million). Pitching close to home, he had a 2.03 ERA in 67 games. Opponents only collected 42 hits off him in 62 innings (just two home runs allowed). This offseason, he was rewarded with a two-year deal to stay with the Dodgers ($11.25 million with a third year option), giving the Dodgers one of the best bullpens on paper in the game.
Howell was part of the epic Arizona Diamondback-LA Dodgers brawl this past June. You can read about the brawl through his eyes HERE. He was also thrown into the Yasiel Puig media storm this offseason when talking about bullying. Howell admitted to being bullied early in his career.
What I have grown to love about Howell is his quirkiness, which was on display way back in his collegiate days at Texas. He is fan-friendly and always has a smile on his face. Howell is also charitable. He and his wife Heather started the website Discover Your Path, a way to help those stay on the right path on their journey to happiness. Heather also has written a children’s book series based on a stuffed monkey with angel’s wings that JP bought her. “The Adventures of Dangles” encourages children to make smart choices.