After two consecutive blowout victories to start off this series, we finally got our first nail-biter at the number three spot in our community prospect rankings. It was a two-man race, as most of us expected, and the two were neck-and-neck throughout the vote. In the end, Tanner Houck got one more vote and took home the victory while taking home 41 percent of the votes.
Once again, we have a former first round pick, making all three of our top Red Sox prospects as former first rounders. Houck was just selected last year out of the University of Missouri. The big righty had an impressive college career and heading into his junior season it seemed that he could be taken at the top of the first round, but he wasn’t quite as dominant as some were hoping for. Ultimately, he fell down to the 20’s and Boston was able to snag him with the 24th overall selection in the draft. Houck would eventually sign on for a $2,614,500 signing bonus.
Coming off a relatively long college season, the Red Sox understandably were not looking to push Houck in his first professional action. Teams rarely do push pitching prospects too much immediately after being drafted, instead letting them go through an offseason with the organization before getting them started on full workloads. Hock did end up taking the mound a bit in 2017, though, making ten short starts down in Lowell for the Spinners. The results were mostly good as he finished his 22 1⁄3 innings with a 3.63 ERA with 25 strikeouts and only eight walks. Granted, it’s a very small sample size and as a top college pitcher he should be able to dominate the New York Penn League to an extent. On the other hand, you never know how a pitcher is going to react to his first taste of professional ball, and you’ll always take a strong performance no matter how relatively expected it may be.
In terms of scouting reports, Houck is a very intriguing prospect but still one with some concerns. The biggest general concern here, and the biggest reason the righty fell down into the 20s, is that there is a decent likelihood he’ll end up in the bullpen. Houck does have a big fastball that can sit in the mid-90s and has reportedly gotten up as high as 98. It also has good movement and is easily his best pitch. He pairs that with a solid, but unspectacular, slider and a changeup that needs some work. It’s that lack of a true third pitch that is one reason he could end up in the bullpen along with a delivery that requires a bit of effort. On the one hand, obviously the Red Sox want him to remain in the rotation and they’ll give him every chance to succeed there. If everything breaks perfectly he could end up as a good number two or three starter. However, it’s not the end of the world if he ends up in the bullpen as he has the stuff to be a true late-inning weapon and could do that relatively soon.
As he seeks to prove that he really is a starter, he’ll get that quest underway in 2018. Presumably, Houck is going to begin this coming season in Greenville for his first full season. There’s a chance that Drive location will include both Houck and Groome, which would be exciting. Entering his age-22 season (he turns 22 on June 29), the team could move their new right hander quickly through the system and if he pitches well to start the season he could find himself in Salem by the end of the year. It’s far from a guarantee, and first pro seasons can be difficult for any pitcher, but Houck will have the opportunity to be a fast riser if he proves himself.
So, we’re now three down, seventeen to go on our prospect list. Here’s what we have so far:
- Jason Groome
- Michael Chavis
- Tanner Houck
Let’s keep things going by heading down into the comments to vote for our number four prospect. For a refresher on how the voting process works, head to the bottom of this post. See you on Tuesday!