Tanner Houck Rebounds With Huge Second Half

For righthander Tanner Houck, the 2018 season was one of change, reversal, and ultimately progress.

The 2017 first-rounder, who leaned during his college career at Missouri on his two-seam fastball and slider, made numerous adjustments in the offseason before his full-season debut. He elevated his arm slot slightly, shifted to a four-seamer and developed a curveball in conjunction with a slider and changeup.

Taken together, those alterations represented an exercise in too much, too soon, and took away from Houck’s strengths as an amateur.

As the year progressed, the 22-year-old Houck restored his arm slot and release point, re-emphasized his slider as his breaking ball and blended both a two-seamer at the bottom of the zone and a four-seamer at the top.

Houck’s season thus became a tale of two halves at high Class A Salem. In his first 11 starts, he got tattooed for a 6.16 ERA with eight home runs allowed and nearly as many walks (37) as strikeouts (38) in 49.2 innings.

Over the next 12 starts, he pitched to a 2.86 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 23 walks in 69.1 innings. He allowed just three home runs.

“He might have been the Red Sox’s No. 1 prospect over those last (12) starts,” one evaluator said.

Late in the year, Houck showed tremendous fastball life while sitting around 94 mph with his two-seamer, and he started locating his four-seamer at the top of the zone as opposed to missing over the middle as he had early in 2018.

He also featured a sweeping slider that produced both swings and misses and ground balls in volume.

If Houck can develop a changeup that is at least functional, he has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. A number of evaluators think that he is more likely to end up in the bullpen because of the number of moving parts in his delivery.

Even if Houck ultimately becomes a reliever, his mechanics could create deception and create uncomfortable at-bats.


— Third baseman Michael Chavis was unable to play in the Arizona Fall League because of discomfort in his right wrist that ultimately required minor surgery. He is expected to be fine for spring training.

— Lefthander Jay Groome, who had Tommy John surgery in May, started throwing for the first time since surgery on Nov. 19.

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