Physical Description: Tall,
athletic pitcher's frame. Has some projection left and should
add strength as he matures.
Throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, starting on the first
base side of the rubber. Steps toward third base and finishes
with back leg continuing in that direction. Used to step even
more towards third and then swing back leg around toward first
base, coming across his body with a lot of east-west movement,
but has worked on staying squarer to the plate with very obvious
improvements. Very quick arm. Long arm action including elbow
climb in the back and high leg kick. Mechanics are very tough on
right-handed hitters. Unique delivery (which used to be even
moreso) with a lot of effort, but it works for him.
Fastball: 93-96 mph. Tops out at 98 mph. In
college, worked almost exclusively off a two-seam fastball
regarded as among the best in the 2017 draft. At beginning of
2018, organization worked with Houck on instead relying
primarily on a four-seam fastball, based in part on Trackman
data on the pitch. After struggling in the first half of the
year, returned to primarily throwing the two-seam while mixing
in the four-seam more than he once had. Two-seam shows arm-side
run and heavy sink down in the zone. Houck does not command the
four-seam as well. In Spring Training 2018, threw the four-seam
routinely in the 95-97 mph range, but as with earlier looks, the
pitch was straight and was hit hard when in the zone. Better as
a pitch to mix in and change the batter's eye level on occasion.
Now throws the pitch at about the same velocity as the two-seam.
Potential plus pitch. May add a cutter eventually.
Slider: 83-86 mph. Has returned to throwing the
sweepy, frisbee like 10-to-4 slider he used in college and after
being drafted. Tried out a spike curveball grip during the first
half of the 2018 season, but because of his arm angle the pitch
wasn't a good fit. Has shown great confidence in his slider
willing to throw it to right- and left-handed hitters. Can
locate in and out of the zone, has bat missing potential.
Potential plus offering.
Changeup: 86-88 mph. Inconsistent pitch, has
changed his grip on the pitch as a professional. Pitch will
flash drop and deceptive arm speed, but has trouble turning the
pitch over and often is firm and straight. Still a work in
progress. Clear third pitch. Potential average offering with
Notes: Pitched for U.S. collegiate national team for
two summers at Missouri. Perhaps a poster child for the Trackman
era, the Red Sox development plan after drafting Houck has
included an overhaul of his arsenal and mechanics despite his
being a first-round pick in an effort to increase his chances of
staying in the rotation. Experimented with primarily throwing a
four-seam fastball in early 2018 that he now will mix in with
the two-seam and has changed grips on his breaking ball and
changeup. Participated in 2018 Fall Instructional League.
Summation: Projects as a late-inning
reliever, with a chance to develop into a mid-rotation starter
if he can develop another secondary pitch to complement his
slider and refine his fastball command. Has the size and
demeanor you look for in a pitcher; able to bear down when
necessary. Fastball and slider project as potential plus
pitches. Changeup lags behind, but has shown potential against
left-handed hitters, which will be vital given his low arm slot.
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