8. Tanner Houck (Relief Pitcher)
Tanner Houck entered 2019 as a starting pitcher. Not only that but a starting pitcher that many believed to be an obvious rotation solution in the somewhat near future.
Instead, he moved to the bullpen this year. This was seen as an immediate fix for Boston’s bullpen issue if it came to that.
It ended up not coming to that though. The Red Sox bullpen salvaged itself and Houck was left in Triple-A.
Triple-A was good to him though, and so was the bullpen move. In Double-A Houck had a 4.25 ERA, most of that as a starter (15 of 17 appearances came as a starter). When he moved to Triple-A, the right-hander became a full-time reliever.
14 of his 16 appearances were out of the bullpen. The only two starts he made were short appearances as an opener, so let’s count those as a reliever as well.
Houck posted a 3.24 ERA with Pawtucket. Clearly the promotion and move to the bullpen worked out. Now that seems to be the spot for him.
It makes a lot of sense too. The 23-year-old has a nasty two-seam fastball. It sat in the mid-90s when he was a starter but it hit the high 90s a lot more often out of the bullpen.
He also has a changeup that has some potential but is more of a third pitch. The biggest positive is that it looks like a fastball out of his hand, so it could confuse some batters.
The star attraction with Houck is obvious. His slider is absolutely nasty. I’m talking unfair at times. It sits in the low-mid 80s. More importantly, though, the break on it is disgusting. Multiple times last season a Houck slider made it’s way around the Twitter world as it absolutely baffled a hitter.
He should make it to the Majors in 2020 and could be a significant piece of the Red Sox bullpen for a long long time.