2015: Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson on Tanner: "We saw Tanner at a young age and you could certainly see the potential. He's not only gotten better, but he's developed into one of the best high school pitchers in the area. He's another tall, lanky, projectable type pitcher who attacks and commands the strike zone with outstanding stuff. He's another player that is going to have the chance to pitch right away for us."
In 2014, the Blue Jays drafted Houck in the 12th round after he finished high school in Collinsville, Illinois. Houck kept an open mind about signing with the Blue Jays, but according to The Columbian Daily Tribune, he elected to go to the University of Missouri after the Blue Jays offered him less money than he wanted.
In 2015, Tanner was a unanimous Freshman All-America from Missouri.
June 2017: Houck was the Red Sox first round pick (#24 overall), out of the Univ of Missouri. He signed for $2,614,500, via scout Todd Gold.
Back in 2014, after graduating from Collinsville High School in Illinois, the Blue Jays selected him in the 12th round with the 354th overall pick. Though he decided not to sign with the Blue Jays to honor his commitment to pitch at Missouri, Houck didn't want to forget that milestone in his life.
So, he did as anyone would do: He got a tattoo as motivation for him to improve and prove scouts wrong. After three years at Missouri, the Red Sox made Houck their first round pick in 2017, a marked improvement from his position just three years ago. (Chesterton - mlb.com - 6/12/17)
Houck has some international experience. His first time pitching for Team USA came in 2015, when he pitched for the United States collegiate national team.
The highlight of Houck’s international career came that summer when he and two other USA pitchers threw a combined no-hitter against the Cuban National Team. Houck threw four perfect innings in the team’s 2-0 win.
Houck played for Team USA again in the 2019 WBSC Premier 12 tournament. He lost both of his starts and gave up four earned runs over 9.1 innings pitched. (Conor Roche)
In 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Houck as the third-best prospect in the Red Sox organization. He was at #7 in the winter before 2019 spring training. And before 2020 spring camps opened, they had hi a #10. He was back up to #8 in the spring of 2021.
Red Sox pitching prospect Tanner Houck wasn’t adopted himself, but it’s always been a part of his life. Both his father and stepfather were adopted, as well as one of his two sisters. He saw firsthand the way it could change someone’s life.
That’s why when he was picked up by the Red Sox and got a big bonus, he started considering charitable causes he could get involved with. Before his first full professional season in 2018, he launched his “Pitch for Adoption” campaign.
“My mom gave me everything I ever wanted and let me do whatever I wanted to do growing up,” Houck said in an interview with MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. “That had an amazing effect on me. For me, I wanted to give back to something bigger than myself. I think starting it when I did was the best thing for me, so we can let this thing grow as my career grows. Then just continuing to push that envelope every year.”
Through “Pitch for Adoption,” Houck donates $25 for every strikeout he records per season to the St. John Bosco Children’s Center, a safe haven for children aged 6 to 18 that provides therapeutic residential care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in Southern Illinois. (Alexandra Francisco - Mar 14, 2020)
Houck, who has a little sister who was adopted by his family, created the “Pitch for Adoption” campaign before is 2018 season, pledging to donate $25 for every strikeout he recorded in his first professional year.
Prior to making his MLB debut, Houck pledged to donate $100 for every strikeout he records in the big leagues. Houck told Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com that while he fell short of his goal to raise $10,000 in each of his first two seasons, he’s finding ways to raise more money. All of the money raised by Houck goes to St. John Bosco Children’s Center, a facility that provides therapeutic care to young children who have experienced trauma in Southern Illinois.
Houck told Cotillo that his little sister, Reanna, never lived at St. John’s, but their mission statement hits close to home.
MLB debut (Sept. 15, 2020): Houck had a tremendous effort when he fired five innings, holding the Marlins to two hits while walking three and striking out seven in Boston's 2-0 victory over Miami.
There was also a cool human-interest component to the performance. The seven punch-outs means Houck will donate $700 to his Pitch for Adoption campaign.
“The reality is definitely everything I could have imagined,” Houck said of getting a win in his debut. “Especially now, getting to pitch for my cause and my charity is definitely a bonus on top of gaining this experience. It was … I can’t even put it into words.”
Houck has held adoption near and dear to his heart, ever since he gained a sister named Reanna when he was a freshman in high school.
“Definitely having my sister come into my life was such a big thing for my whole family,” Houck said. “I’ll never forget the day that she came in. I was pitching in high school on the J.V. field as a freshman. I remember watching my mom walk up with a stroller and a little girl in there.
“I was like, ‘Who is that?’ She said, ‘It’s your new sister.’ Just being able to help her change her life was just so inspiring for me. I want to continue to do that for other kids. They’re our future. I was lucky enough to have parents that gave me everything I wanted and helped me get to this to live out my dream. I want to continue to help kids like that fulfill their dreams.”
His performance was the best for a Red Sox starter making his MLB debut since Eddie Rodriguez fired 7.2 scoreless innings at Texas on May 28, 2015.
In 2020, Tanner had already burst onto the scene by turning in three dominant starts in September. But there was something missing from that 3-0, 0.53 ERA start. That something were fans, and one in particular. Houck’s biggest fan is his mother Jennifer, and that’s why April 3, 2021's strong performance in a 4-2 loss to the Orioles was his true debut of sorts.
Jennifer goes above and beyond the typically enthusiastic baseball mom. For years, she has charted every pitch her son has thrown as a professional in a notebook. She did the same thing when he was in high school and college. And this time, she got to do it live from Fenway Park, though the Missouri native’s hands must have been a little chilly amid the unkind weather they tend to get in Boston this time of year.
Houck, the righty with electric stuff, at least kept his mom’s heart warm by the way he pitched.
“I don’t remember the last time she didn’t do the scorebook. She loves doing the book, that’s kind of her thing,” said Houck. “I love having her here, and even at home, she’ll be sitting in her bed watching the game. She’ll still do the scorebook, and I typically will go through and correct all her mistakes afterwards whenever she makes them. But to have her here in person was truly amazing. She’s been the biggest part of my life, so to have her here and spend this moment with her, I’m truly grateful.”
Tanner has a strong support system. “Truly amazing," he said. "Also my grandma was here, my sister, my fiancée, one of my former coaches, a few of my longtime childhood friends also made the flight when I told them that I had gotten the news [that I would start the game]. So to have everyone here today was something special,” said Houck. I’ve known these people my entire life almost, so like I said before, it takes a team on and off the field to reach to this point and they’re definitely part of my team off the field.” (Browne - mlb.com - 4/3/2021)
Tanner has the word “Believe” spelled out on his spine in the Red Sox font, with the “B” being the team’s logo, according to MassLive’s Christopher Smith.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-handed pitcher reportedly got his first tattoo at age 17. It reads “Veni. Vidi. Vici,” which translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Not long after, Hauck got another tattoo when he was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 12th round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of high school.
He played college baseball at Missouri instead of signing with Toronto but commemorated the event by getting the round, pick number, team name, and year tattooed (RD12 PK354 Blue Jays ’14) on his wrist.
Three years later, in 2017, the Red Sox selected Houck in the first round with the 24th overall pick.
Hauck said that he gets tattoos to document the progression of his life.
“Those are two of the biggest moments of my life, especially in my career,” Hauck told MassLive. “It’s moments you don’t want to forget. You want to embrace those things. I know some people have their own opinions on tattoos. I like to look at moments like that and why not? It’s a significant part of who you are as a person. Without getting drafted the first time, I wouldn’t have learned the process. And I wanted to push myself to be better than what I was.”
Hauck said he wants his entire body covered in tattoos, except for the parts that are visible when he wears a suit.
“My rule is basically if I can put a suit on, you would have no idea,” he told the outlet. “I think it’s more of, if I put on a suit, you look respectable. The older generations were typically never really a fan of tattoos. I know obviously nowadays it’s not as big of a deal. But for me, I still want to look presentable … if I ever do put on a suit.” (Khari Thompson - April 20, 2023)
|Birth City:||Collinsville, IL|
|Draft:||Red Sox #1 - 2017 - Out of Univ. of Missouri|
Houck has a very lively 91-97 mph 4-seam FASTBALL that he elevates and fires to his glove-side for a 60 grade. He has a 90-94 mph 2-seam SINKER with arm-side run. And he has a wipeout, sweeping 82-84 mph SLIDER from low three-quarters arm slot that causes nightmares to righthanded hitters; it grades a 65.
His SPLITTER needs improving to help him retire lefthanded hitters. He shelved his changeup in 2020.
In 2020, Tanner quieted his crossfire delivery at the Red Sox alternate site; the goal was to establish better direction to home plate. He also raised his low three-quarters arm slot a tick, establishing a better release point for his 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, and his slider. Against that slider, hitters were 0-for-15 with 10 strikeouts in 2020.
He displays impressive poise.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 35.5% of the time; Sinker 26.8%; his Slider 35.5%; and Split 2.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.2 mph, Sinker 91.6, Slider 82.7, and Split 87.4 mph.
2021 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 38.5% of the time; Sinker 16.9%; his Slider 37.3%; and Split 7.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.7 mph, Sinker 93.3, Slider 84.6, and Split 85.8 mph.
2022 Season Pitch Usage/Avg. Velo: Fastball 33% - 95 mph; Slider 38.5% - 85 mph; Sinker 22.6% - 94 mph; Split 6% - 86.5 mph.
Tanner throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and cross-body delivery, which makes it extremely difficult for hitters to pick the ball up, particularly righthanders.
Houck's pure arm speed helps him overcome some timing issues in his delivery. He pounds the zone with a lively fastball with plus life as well as plus velocity from an unconventional, low-three-quarters slot. He needs to more consistently stay on top of his slider, a pitch with sharp bite at times.
But in 2017, Tanner made considerable progress with his now-wipeout slider.
Houck's coach at Missouri, Steve Bieser said of Tanner: “His arm slot is lower than a Kevin Brown, but that’s kind of the fastball I think of whenever I see Tanner slinging it . . . It’s almost hard to call any other pitch because his fastball is so good.”
Houck is altering his arsenal in pro ball, figuring out the right balance between a four-seam fastball (a new pitch for him) and the two-seamer that carried him at Missouri. He also switched from a college slider to a curveball in pro ball.
“He’s taking steps forward,” Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett said in 2018. “I think we’re seeing a lot of positives there. The stuff has been very good.”
Tanner is determined to prove he can start, though many feel his future is in the bullpen unless he improves effectiveness against lefthanded hitters. He has No. 4 starter potential if he starts.
Tanner's nasty SINKER gets comps with those that Jake Peavy and Kevin Brown threw. If Houck can develop a functional changeup, he has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. A number of evaluators think that he is more likely to end up in the bullpen because of the number of moving parts in his delivery.
In 2018, Houck changed from a two-seam/slider mix to more of a four-seam/curveball combination that he struggled to command. He went back to a more familiar, more elevated arm slot in the second half of 2018, with strong results down the stretch. Taken together, those alterations represented an exercise in too much, too soon, and took away from Houck’s strengths as an amateur.
Houck’s flexibility permits him to have excellent extension from a low three-quarters arm slot, though he has a lot of moving parts and sometimes struggles to hold his release point. Tanner spreads out the strike zone for swings and misses at the top of it and grounders at the bottom. His changeup needs to make progress for him to stay in the rotation, even if he only lands it for occasional strikes. (Alex Speier - Baseball America Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2019)
Oct 8, 2019: Houck allowed one run on four hits over five innings against Scottsdale in his longest Arizona Fall League start for the Javelinas. The Red Sox's No. 5 prospect struck out four but struggled with his control; he issued three walks and hit one batter while throwing 43 of 82 pitches for strikes.
Houck showed impressive stuff in the outing, operating at 92-95 mph with a heavy fastball that helped him to induce nine ground-ball outs. He threw his hard, upper-80s/low-90s slider 36 times in the outing, generating seven whiffs, and also recorded three swinging strikes with his mid-80s changeup. Overall, the 23-year-old has compiled a 3.14 ERA in the Fall League, striking out 15 in 14 innings.
Houck thrives by pitching off his sinker and slider and by confounding right-handers. His two-seam fastball has heavy sink and bore, while his slider sweeps across the strike zone. He tried using a four-seamer and a curveball from a higher slot at the beginning of his first pro season, but it cost him command and deception.
Houck made some strides with his changeup in 2019, using a circle grip while prioritizing action over velocity separation. There's a lot going on with his delivery, so his control becomes inconsistent when he gets out of sync. Though Boston used him as a reliever in Triple-A to prepare him for a possible late-season callup, it definitely envisions him as a member of its rotation in the near future. (Spring 2020)
Tanner is probably always going to have issues with splits—crushing righties, struggling to put away lefties. Unless he makes progress with his change. But his slider is good enough that if he can command it, it becomes a weapon against both righties and lefties and would give him a chance to be a two-times-through-the-order starter.
Houck looks like a potential starter, but his difficulty in repeating a crossfire delivery with a lot of moving parts has convinced many that his future is in the bullpen as a setup man. (Spring, 2020)
- Sept. 20, 2020: Houck is the eighth pitcher since 1901 to throw as many as five innings while allowing two hits or fewer in his first two MLB starts. And he’s the first pitcher in Red Sox history to achieve that feat.
Houck is just the third pitcher in franchise history to go five innings or more in his first two starts without allowing an earned run. The others were Boo Ferris (1945) and Vaughn Eshelman (1995).
Sept 26, 2020: The taste that Houck will leave the Red Sox with going into the offseason is one they haven’t felt in years. This is the story of a homegrown pitching phenom who looks poised to make an impact for years to come. What has Houck keyed on to have this kind of success so soon?
“Just comes down to game plan and executing,” Houck said. “I spent a lot of time down in Pawtucket working on being able to execute, whether it’s fastball away, four-seamer, two-seamer, slider. I didn’t throw many splitters, but a lot of it was hard work and executing.”
Instead of losing focus with the big lead, Houck continued to attack, generating 16 whiffs in his 94 pitches. In this one, Houck’s biggest weapon was his four-seamer.
“I felt like I had a lot of ride and pop on the ball,” Houck said. “I went to it. They’re an aggressive, low-ball-hitting team. Went out there and just kind of rode the fastball, up and it worked out really well—also playing off the two-seamer and off the slider as well.”
This offseason, Houck will train in Florida so he can do as much throwing outdoors as possible. His mission will be to refine his splitter, which he hopes to use as a weapon against lefties. He barely used the pitch in these three starts for the Red Sox. (I Browne - MLB.com - Sept 27, 2020)
Sept. 26, 2020: Houck became the ninth Red Sox pitcher in history to have a 10-strikeout game within his first three career starts.
- 2020 Season: For Red Sox prospect Tanner Houck, the pandemic-shortened season was the one in which he established that he could be a rotation building block for years to come. It was a year that Houck plans on using a springboard for success in 2021 and beyond.
Houck, the Red Sox's No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was called up to the big league club in September and made the first three starts of his career. He was tremendous in all three of them, going 3-0 with an 0.53 ERA against the Marlins, Yankees and Braves—three teams that made the postseason.
Houck's late-season surge was a big development for the Red Sox, who have struggled to develop homegrown pitchers into impact performers in recent years.
While there was no Minor League season in 2020, Houck set himself apart at the alternate training site, which led to his callup and subsequent success. (Ian Browne - Jan. 19, 2021)
Participating in this year's 2020 Rookie Program, Houck reflected on his September success and the challenges ahead in an interview with MLB.com’s Jim Callis.
“I think just having the alternate site was very helpful for me in my career, but obviously making my debut and just getting my feet wet up at that level and having that confidence going into next year I think is the biggest thing,” Houck said. “I feel like going into next year, I’m a lot more prepared. I kind of have like a little bit more understanding of what to expect. Obviously, there’s things that I’ll still be learning along the way. For the most part, I am truly blessed to have at least gotten my feet a little wet and ready to go.”
This doesn’t mean that Houck is under the impression that he can just show up at Spring Training and land a spot in manager Alex Cora’s starting rotation.
“Pretty much for me, it’s go in and fight for a spot,” Houck said. “That’s what I expect. I don’t expect to walk in there Day 1 and have a spot in the rotation. I know that it’s going to be a lot of hard work. We’ve got some great guys there that are going to be fighting for the spot against me, and I’m ready for the competition. 2021, I’m ready for really whatever.”
Jan. 2021: In the offseason, Houck prioritized his continued development by working out at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, which has become a hotbed for many established Major Leaguers.
“For me, it was surrounding myself with elite competition. I moved myself down to Jupiter and started going to Cressey Sports Performance, and it was truly the best thing I could have done,” Houck said. “I wanted to surround myself with the biggest fish I could. And ultimately, I think that’s what drives people more, is whenever you see other people in the weight room who are pushing their bodies just as much as you are, [and especially] whenever it is elite competition.”
The Red Sox had high hopes for the hard-throwing righty from the University of Missouri when they made him their first-round selection in the 2017 draft.
In his years climbing through the farm system, Houck often tried to tinker with his three-quarters arm slot, perhaps listening to the critics who said starting pitchers who throw that way don’t have staying power.
“I tried to play around with having a little higher slot and trying to change some things up that my body didn’t want to do, and it reacted the way it did and ultimately I think that’s why I struggled at times the past few years,” he said. “I definitely had some prolonged stuff that happened because of it. I was searching for my arm slot sometimes. It was like, super awkward. Sometimes I would be super over the top and other times I’d be way too low.”
The benefit of not having a Minor League season in 2020 is that Houck had a chance to really rediscover his arm slot in the less-pressurized environment of the alternate training site.
What Houck learned is that he’s at his best with the lower slot that has always been the most natural for him.
“Yeah, I think ultimately I just listened to my body,” he said. “Ultimately, now going into 2021, I feel like I have my arm slot back, and 2020 was great for that, going into the alternate [training] site. I’d also heard people saying, ‘You can’t be a starter, you can’t hold up.’ But that just fueled the fire. You can say all you want about me. But at the end of the day, I’m still going to prove you wrong and continue to fight. I love starting, and that’s what I plan on doing.” (I Browne - MLB.com - Jan 19, 2021)
2021 Season: He started 13 games and pitched five out of the bullpen. However, the truth is he has the ability to be an effective mid-rotation starter both in fantasy and real life.
In 2021, he had a 3.52 ERA in 69 frames, but it came with a much better 2.58 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). He also had 11.35 strikeouts per nine innings, compared to just 2.74 walks. His numbers, and his arsenal, scream “breakout.” (aecu13 - Nov 29, 2021)
- 2022 Season: He has a 3.02 ERA in 146 innings for his career thus far, striking out 27.6% of batters faced, walking 8.7% and getting grounders at a 49.3% rate. That work has involved 20 starts and 33 relief appearances.
The splits aren’t huge, as he has a 3.22 ERA as a starter and a 2.68 out of the ’pen. He dealt with lingering back issues last year that sent him to the injured list in August and he ultimately underwent surgery in September. (Darragh McDonald - February 8, 2023)
Aug 18-Sep 26, 2018: Houck was on the DL in the minors.
Aug 6-Nov 10, 2022: Closer Tanner Houck was placed on the injured list with lower back inflammation.
Sept 13, 2022: Houck’s season is over after he had a successful lumbar discectomy to repair a disc issue in his back.
June 16, 2023: In a scary moment at Fenway Park, Houck was struck in the face just under his right eye on a line drive by Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka. Houck immediately went to the ground, his face bloodied by the impact. Houck was able to get up and walk off the mound under his own power. He pumped his fist to the crowd as he got close to the dugout.
The Red Sox announced that Houck had a facial fracture. After Houck received stitches at the ballpark, he was then taken to Mass General for observation and is now resting at home in stable condition. He is set to have follow-up appointments next week to determine next steps and a treatment plan.
June 17-Aug 22, 2023: Tanner was on the IL with facial fracture.
June 20, 2023: Houck will have surgery to have a plate inserted into his face next week, Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced. Cora did say it's a sure thing Houck will pitch again this season.
June 27, 2023: Houck underwent a successful open reduction and internal fixation of a right orbito-zygomatico-maxillary complex fracture (plate insertion in right side of his face) at Mass General Hospital, the Red Sox announced. Manager Alex Cora said that Houck is still in the hospital, and the team will have a better understanding of the right-hander's timetable for return within the week.
Aug 15, 2023: If all goes well for Houck in his third rehab start for Triple-A Worcester, he will start for the Red Sox on in Houston, manager Alex Cora said. Last time out, Houck fired three scoreless innings while allowing one hit and no walks with three strikeouts. The righty threw 34 pitches (23 strikes).