It’s Time for Tanner Houck

Let’s get real, Red Sox fans: This season has been the worst in a while. Even worse than the 2012 season with Bobby V. The Sox are sitting at 17-31 and have spent the better part of the past three weeks trotting out whatever pitchers they can pick up off the streets of Lansdowne St. There have been some bright spots, sure, but overall this team has played like garbage. Finally, though, some prospects are making their way to the active roster and showing their stuff. We’ve already seen Bobby Dalbec emerge from Pawtucket following the trade of Mitch Moreland, and tonight we’re preparing for top pitching prospect Tanner Houck.

A Brief Aside

Before I get into anything else, I want to highlight Tanner’s character for a minute. Back in 2018, he started a campaign called “Pitch for Adoption” and has pledged differing amounts of money for every strikeout he gets during his career, helping raise awareness and support for fostering and adoption services in his home state of Illinois. This passion sparked in him after his mother brought his baby sister home when he was in high school. He’s continuing this campaign in his MLB debut, pledging that for every K he gets tonight, he’ll be donating $100 for fostering provider Caritas Family Services. You can join in with his fundraising efforts by clicking the link on his tweet:

What to Expect Tonight

Given this is Tanner’s MLB debut, the more casual fans out there are wondering what we should be expecting from him tonight. The 24-year-old has flown through the minors since signing with the Sox in 2017, playing in low A ball that year, high A the next, and splitting 2019 between Portland and Pawtucket (AA and AAA, respectively). Over the course of that time, he posted a combined 15-20 record with a 4.04 ERA, 1.406 WHIP, and 243 strikeouts. I do want to point out, though, that his best ERA at any one level was in AAA, at 3.24, to go along with a 1.32 WHIP and 27 Ks. While this was mostly in relief, it seems like he’s made some significant strides as he’s worked his way up, especially considering his 2018 was stats were the result of a failed attempt to adjust his pitch repertoire.

Speaking of his pitch repertoire, Brooks Baseball has recorded Houck’s current primary pitches to be a four seam fastball (94-MPH), a slider (86 MPH), a sinker (93 MPH), and an occasional changeup (88 MPH). He has also thrown a cutter at times (90 MPH) and SoxProspects.com reported him developing a splitter so far in 2020. Based on Brooks Baseball’s analysis, we should be prepared to see a lot of strikeouts and fly balls from Tanner over his career, but I’m hoping to see more of the former today.

What to Expect for the Future

Talent scouts have labelled Houck’s potential to be that of a back-end starter or a late-inning reliever, depending on how the Sox utilize him. He’s shown some flashes as he’s quickly made his way through the minors, but given his stats thusfar I expect him to struggle a little at this tail end of 2020 before breaking out some in 2021, whether he starts the season in the MLB or not. If he does, hopefully the Sox’s pitching woes will cease with Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nate Eovaldi, and Tanner Houck (and/or Bryan Mata) all in the starting rotation by midseason 2021, at least barring any more injuries. If the Red Sox also sign a player like Trevor Bauer over the offseason, as Chaim Bloom seems to have indicated, then this team will be night-and-day from the team we’re seeing now.

Despite this season, I’ll be rooting for Tanner Houck tonight. I have a feeling he’ll be better than we’ll expect.

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– Pat Shuman (@PShu1996 on Twitter)

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