9. Tanner Houck
Six of the top-9 prospects on this list are pitchers. Tanner Houck kicks things off after a season that saw him dominate for the last month.
The right-handed pitcher posted a 4.24 ERA in 23 starts in 2018. He threw 119 innings, striking out 111 batters – but walking 60. The good news is the walks seemed to be coming under control towards the end of the season. Houck allowed 50 free passes through his first 71 innings but allowed just 10 in his final 48 innings.
In those same 48 innings, he lowered his ERA from 5.32 to the 4.24 that he ended the year with.
The 22-year-old had only 22 1/3 professional innings under his belt before the 2018 season. Due to that, the clear improvements he made as the year went on are that much more impressive. They’re also important when considering he’s clearly making steps in the right direction.
Houck’s already got a dangerous fastball. It sits in the mid-90s and you get the impression that if he was working out of the bullpen it would flirt with 100. His two-seamer is superb with a ton of life, while the four-seamer already flirts with 100.
He also has a wipeout slider with plenty of potential. It has a torturous break that could leave a lot of hitters swinging at pitches not even close to the zone. Especially when Houck’s feeding them fastballs before throwing the breaking pitch.
A changeup fills out his repertoire, being the pitch that needs the most work. It could be dangerous though as it shows potential of having a nice dip. It’s a high-80s pitch but still has a big enough difference from his fastball. That could become a great out pitch again when he’s feeding batters fastballs for most of the game.
Houck’s unusual because while he’s a highly-touted starting prospect, his Major League career could come to fruition in a few ways. Converting him to a reliever will allow him to cut loose with his pitches. The Red Sox would love to have a bullpen arm for the foreseeable future and his tool belt of pitches could play perfectly into that. If he stays a starter though, he could be a top-of-the-rotation guy.