School: University of Missouri; Class: Junior
Position: RHP; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-5; Weight: 218
Previously Drafted: Toronto Blue Jays, 12th round, 2014
Background: According to an article by Tod Palmer for the Kansas City Star, Houck said the following: “No matter what [I] did, I wanted it to be motivation, whether I signed or went to college. I wanted it to be motivation, because I was drafted 354th. That means they thought 353 people were better than me in that year.” That year, of course, was 2014 when the Blue Jays grabbed Illinois native in the 12th round following his senior year at Collinsville High School.
Houck politely declined the opportunity to turn pro, opting instead to ply his trade for the Tigers of Missouri. And it was definitely the right move.
The 6-foot-5, 218-pound right-hander sparkled during his freshman season, throwing 100.2 innings with a team-leading 91 strikeouts and just 12 free passes. His walk rate that season, 1.07 BB/9, also lead the club for any pitcher that threw at least 2.0 innings. Houck continued that momentum for Team USA during the summer as well: he paced the national team in innings pitched (16.2) and strikeouts (14) while issuing just one base-on-balls.
Houck’s production took a noticeable tick upwards in 2016, his sophomore season, as threw 105.1 innings for Head Coach Tim Jamieson’s club, averaging 9.06 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9 with a 2.99 ERA. And, of course, he competed for Team USA during that summer as well. His production there, however, took a noticeable downturn: he threw a team-leading 23.2 innings but managed to just fan eight and walk five to go along with the fourth worst ERA on the club – though it was just a modest 2.66.
This season, through his first 12 starts, Houck’s record stands a disappointing 3-7 – despite sporting a career best 2.88 ERA to go along with another impeccable 81-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 81.1 innings of work.
Projection: Just how good was the hard-throwing right-hander during his freshman season? Well, consider the following:
- Between 2011 and 2016, only six Division I pitchers have thrown 100+ innings with a strikeout rate above 8.0 K/9 and a walk rate below 1.11 BB/9: Taylor Clarke, Thomas Eshelman, Kyle Friedrichs, Reggie McClain, Cameron White, and Houck.
- The difference: Houck was the only pitcher to accomplish the feat during his freshman season.
Houck’s been an exceptionally productive starter for the Tigers throughout his tenure at the school. He’s shown a tremendous ability to help himself by keeping runners off base via the free pass. And his homerun rates have been trending in the right direction in each of the past two seasons.
Consider the following comparison:
Houck’s never been as consistently dominant as Nola, the seventh overall pick in 2014 draft. But the overall numbers are relatively close. The Missouri star should move quickly through the minor leagues with the ceiling as a good #2/#3 caliber big league starter.
Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player
Floor: 2.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
Grade: First Round