There’s fallout in the air! One look left, you have the huge Joey Gallo trade to the Yankees, a look to the right and you see Joey Votto’s resurgence in any and all baseball activities… and these are just two (or dos, as our Spanish friends call it) of the many happenings in the MLB during a week of frantic deadline trading, some interesting names coming off the IR (and going on), and everything in-between, so you’d be forgiving for letting one Houck-man go unnoticed. Houck man or monster? Houck monster? Man, makes me miss the days of punning the Smoak monster back when Lost was part of the zeitgeist. And while we (I) pontificate on how Evangeline Lilly actually made it out of season finale to later land into the Marvel Universe, we should probably be talking about Tanner Houck…
Making his Major League debut in 2020, the year that we will not speak of (cough-cough-don’t cough on me bro), Houck only managed a short stay with just 21.0 innings pitched, but with a very respectable 3.25 FIP and 11.12 K/9. Now that he’s back with a potential to stay, let’s take a look and see if his continued excellence is a sign of things to come or just a flash in the pan. Pan’s flash? I mean, call me crazy, but I ain’t ever seen a pan flash…
So far just pitching 22.0 innings of this writing, he has continued the level of production since 2020, providing a 12.27 K/9 and an even better 1.70 FIP in six games played, four of which he’s started. And while I admit I may be late to the party, at least in terms of Grey already telling you to buy almost two weeks ago, he’s still available in the majority of leagues with low ownership rates both in Yahoo (31%) and ESPN (15%). These numbers are obviously fueled a bit with the fact that he is probably a streamer target, but I think he’s more than that.
So as we always do here at Jay’s corner (why am I always stuck in this corner!), let’s cover the negatives and positives. And I guess the neutralities (like the freaky-deaky Dutch, for example). Usability and role-ability? Yeah, we’ll just make up a word, but let’s be clear, I believe that Tanner Houck is going to be a starter, and I think the Red Sox agree with that sentiment, but I’m just not sure how much they believe. Right now, there aren’t any issues, but the Boston front office has definitely made usage an issue, but are currently and obviously stretching Houck out right now. None of this is necessarily a red flag, but something that could affect his value this season and long-term if the Red Sox decide to go in another direction.
Next up is the fact that Houck hasn’t really hyped himself up as a former first-round pick that has never really put up stellar numbers at any level. True, he held his own, but sometimes you just want that dominant pedigree in the minors to be present with someone you peg (teehee) as a future star.
And then of course last, but certainly not least, is Houck’s noted control issues. He’s had a history of it. And while my great analytical powers say that this is not a good thing (GLORIOUS ANALYSIS) there are some caveats. The obvious ones are that he’s young, still being developed, and has an amazing fastball. The 5.04 BB/9 in AAA remains a; “bro, really?” type of number, and his strong debut in 2020 was still riddled with 9 walks in just 17.0 innings. However, small sample size withstanding, so far this season he’s been able to sustain a 2.05 BB/9 and has found slightly better success with his slider and split-finger, netting more strikeouts outside the strike zone (35.6% so far, 30.6% in 2020). He’s also throwing more in the zone (51.5% now, 45.7% last season) while also lowering contact% from 75.4% to 73.3% this year. His control issues remain something to keep an eye on for sure, but even with the small sample size, improvement through sequencing and secondary stuff seem to be the drivers here, which is probably a more convincing argument.
So yeah, streaming Houck is good, but I think there’s something here that you should buy-in on now. Say that three times fast. Actually, don’t, it’s a horribly written sentence. That being said, Tanner Houck is a young pitcher with a lot of strikeout potential. I didn’t spend much time on that because it’s literally his entire flavor, because people have flavors. To Charlton Heston, he tasted like Soylent Green, to me, he tastes like strikeouts. This entire paragraph sounds like it took LSD, but the fact remains that young pitchers that through hot fire can lead to something amazing and if he has his control issues solved, or even just has it set at “a work in progress” I think you might like what you see. But don’t just read about it, be a part of it… the adventures of Houckleberry Finn.
Not my strongest, but I’m happy about it. Still not sure how Detective Thorn ended up in a Tom Sawyer driven pun, but whatever. (GLORIOUS REFERENCES.)
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who is apparently a big fan of Disney’s Loki and consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him on Twitter @jaywrong.