Roy Lee Howell | 3B | 1977-1980
Born December 18, 1953 in Lompoc, California, Roy Howell was drafted in the first round of the 1972 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers with the 4th pick. That was the first season for the Texas Rangers. They had just moved from Washington, and Howell was their first-ever pick. There weren’t that many big names picked in the first round that year. Chet Lemon was the 22nd pick in the first round, but there wasn’t anyone else chosen in the first round that was much better than Howell (maybe Scott McGregor). The number one pick overall was Dave Roberts. There were two Hall of Famers picked in the 3rd round that year, Dennis Eckersley and Gary Carter.
Roy made it to the majors in 1974 at the age of 20 for 13 games, and then in ‘75 and ‘76. He was the regular third sacker for the Rangers. He was pretty unspectacular, hitting .251 and .253 with 10 and 8 home runs those seasons. On May 9 of 1977, the Rangers traded Roy to the Jays for Steve Hargan, a has-been starting pitcher, Jim Mason, a SS who flirted with the Mendoza line in his good seasons plus $200,000.
In 1977 Roy had a good season with the Jays batting .316/.386/.451 for an Ops+ of 127. The Jays were, well, pretty awful in their first season of existence, and they weren’t much better the next year when Howell hit .271/.325/.376, hitting 8 home runs, scoring 67 runs, and driving home 61. He was the Blue Jay’s representative at the All-Star game that year because someone had to be, and he appeared in the game as a pinch hitter.
In 1979 Roy played in 140 games, batted .247/.310/.405 with 15 home runs and 72 RBI. Not terrible, but not want you would want out of your third baseman. 1980 was Toronto’s first season with less than 100 losses (95), Howell hit .269/.335/.413 for an OPS+ of precisely 100. With 10 home runs and 57 RBI, he was average with the bat. Fangraphs has 1980 as his best season as a Jay, with a 2.5 WAR.
With the glove? He had average range, but he made his share of errors. In his 4 seasons with the Jays, he made 60 errors in 489 games at 3B for a fielding percentage of about .955.
After the 1980 season, he signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he played for 4 seasons as a platoon 3B/DH. The Brewers made it to the World Series once in the Harvey Wallbanger period but lost out to the Cardinals. Roy went 0 for 11 in 4 games. Roy signed with the Giants before the 1985 season, but they released during spring training.
When Roy left the Blue Jays, he held the team records for career hits, RBI, and strikeouts, but then it was a very young franchise at the time. Roy has the team record for RBI in a game, driving in 9 against the Yankees in the Bronx on September 10, 1977. He hit .272/.335/.407 with 43 home runs and 234 RBI in 516 games with the Jays. It’s funny my memory says that he was a better player than his numbers suggest. Since we didn’t have many decent players back in the team’s early days, anyone who resembled a major league player looked pretty good by comparison.
After the 1980 season he signed as a free agent with the Brewers. He played there for 4 seasons, hitting .253/.307/.389 in 311 games.
In all, he played in the majors for 11 years, hit .261/.321/.389, with 80 home runs. His best years were with the Jays.
After retirement, Howell played for a season in the Senior Professional Baseball Association. He also coached and managed in the Padres minor league system. In 2011 he was the manager for an independent league team. He lives in Shell Beach, CA, with his family. There is a story about him here, talking to him about being a batting coach for the Tacoma Rainiers. He still has the mustache, but it is a bit grayer. I can relate.
Roy Howell’s ranking among Jay hitters:
Games Played 43rd, 516Runs Scored 41st, 219
Hits 35th, 532Doubles 36th, 101
Triples 20th, 17Home Runs 50th, 43
RBI 38th, 234Walks 35th, 175
Intention Walks 20th, 17