Taking a Look at Potential First Round Draft Picks for Baltimore Orioles: RHP Tanner Houck

By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens

The 2017 MLB Draft is quickly approaching and many scouts/experts believe this year’s draft class may be one of the deepest we have seen in years, especially when it comes to pitchers. One of those pitchers, who has been linked to the Baltimore Orioles in a number of different mock drafts leading up to June 12th, is RHP Tanner Houck out of the University of Missouri. 

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Houck stands at 6’5”, 220 pounds, still with lots of room to fill out. Back in 2014, Tanner was a 12th round selection of the Toronto Blue Jays (has the round/pick/team tattooed on his wrist), but decided to honor his Missouri scholarship instead. He was the Friday night starter for the Missouri Tigers this past season, who failed to make it to the NCAA Regionals after an early exit in the SEC tournament.

Tanner, just 20 years old, finished his junior campaign with a 4-7 record (14 games started), a 3.33 ERA, and a .220 opposing batting average. In 94.2 innings pitched, Houck posted 95 strikeouts to just 24 walks. For his career, Houck finished with a 17-18 record in 44 games, a 3.26 ERA, 300.2 innings pitched, 292 strikeouts, and just 63 walks.

What makes Tanner Houck a 1st round talent? Where do I begin.  Houck has a three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, changeup) and projects as a top of the rotation starter, if a team wants to be patient with him. A lot of scouts believe Houck could be major league ready within two years -  sooner if he is to be used as a reliever/closer. This is potential good news for Orioles’ fans who are desperate for a more steady pitching staff.

His plus-fastball sits at 93-95 mph, topping out at 98. Unfortunately, his velocity took a big dip this season, dropping to 89-91 mph. With so much late life on the ball, however, hitters still struggled to make strong contact. According to MLB.com, Houck’s fastball, even with the velocity dip, is still rated as one of the best in the entire draft class. The slider could be a plus-pitch, but accuracy is an issue. With massive sweeping action, Houck’s slider can be just as deceptive as his fastball. The problem pitch seems to be the changeup, for which Tanner lacks command.

After watching Tanner Houck in his start against Texas A&M in the SEC tournament, I see why organizations are so high on him. The broadcast even compared him to former World Series champion with the Florida Marlins, Kevin Brown. All of the tools are there, despite the subpar performance coming off 10 days of rest. You have to watch his fastball live to truly appreciate it, and his slider is absolutely knee-buckling. The concern with Houck, however, rests with his delivery. He uses a low ¾ arm slot with a lot of elbow action when he brings his arm back and a high leg kick. Even at 6’5”, with his delivery style, Houck is unable to command the type of downward plane a pitcher of his height is capable of.

Tanner Houck is a polished and experienced college pitcher who should be able to be pushed through the farm system, much like what the Orioles are doing with last year’s high draft picks, Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin. He’s a power pitcher who, at worst, can be a lightening arm out of the bullpen. If Houck is still available at #21 for the Orioles, there’s no doubt he needs to be their pick.

Make sure you check out other potential draft prospects we are highlighting at Baby Birdland this week as we get you ready for the 2017 MLB Draft. And be sure to follow @BabyBirdland, @CoachNick_14, and @CABoemmelJR on Twitter for all your Orioles’ minor league news and updates!

                                                                                                                                                       
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