Tanner Houck is a Midwesterner, hailing from Collinsville, Illinois, a town of 25,579 about a dozen miles from St. Louis. Well-known to area scouts, he was drafted in the 12th round in 2014 by the Toronto Blue Jays but chose to honor his scholarship commitment to the University of Missouri.
This was the right thing for him to do: he entered the Tigers rotation as a freshman and has been there ever since, performing very well against SEC competition and also seeing summer action for Team USA.
In 296 college innings over three seasons he has a 3.13 ERA with a 288/60 K/BB, including a 2.89 ERA in 90 innings this year with a 91/21 K/BB.
Strongly-built at 6-5, 220, he is right-handed hitter and thrower born June 29, 1996.
In high school Houck showed an 89-92 MPH fastball. That increased with physical maturity and he was clocked as high as 97-98 MPH (with movement) in 2016. He hasn’t thrown as consistently hard in 2017, with reports of his fastball dipping back into the 90-93 range. Even in the lower velocity band the fastball is a plus pitch due to power sink low in the zone.
Reports on his secondary pitches are mixed. On the right day he’ll show a plus slider and a solid-average change-up, and he’s never had trouble throwing his pitches for strikes. His delivery has some sweep that crosses up right-handed hitters and adds deception to his arsenal. Makeup is another positive and he’s held up well to a college starter’s workload.
Although it hasn’t impacted his effectiveness, the velocity decline this spring feeds into worries about his durability. Optimists seem him as a groundball-getting workhorse starter, but pessimists worry about his delivery and think he’ll hold up better as a power reliever or closer. His change-up is not as impressive as his slider and will need more refinement if he’s to start at the highest levels.
Houck garnered Top 10 consideration back in January but right now it looks like he’ll fit better in the middle or later parts of the first round. Assuming continued good health he could reach the majors very quickly in a relief role, but he’ll need more development time if used as a starter. He could fit well with the Detroit Tigers at number 18, the New York Mets at number 20, the Baltimore Orioles at 21, or the Washington Nationals at 25.
Video by Jesse Burkhart