As previously discussed this year, creating MLB mock drafts is not easy, save for the moment the Detroit Tigers are on the clock. Projecting a hard-throwing pitcher is usually a safe bet where Detroit is concerned, and the rest of baseball knows it. This continued on Thursday, as Minor League Ball’s John Sickels released his first mock draft of 2017. He projects that the Tigers will select right-handed pitcher Tanner Houck out of the University of Missouri.
Described by Sickels as “a hard-throwing right-hander from the SEC,” Houck sounds like your prototypical Tigers pitching prospect. He stands at 6’5 and weighs 220 pounds. He delivers from a three-quarters arm slot, and has somewhat of a cross-body motion. His fastball has sat from 90-93 miles per hour this season, but he has been clocked as high as 97-98 mph in the past. In a previous profile, Sickels described the righthander’s fastball as “a plus pitch thanks to power sink low in the zone.”
Houck also has a sharp slider, but one that hasn’t been consistently effective in front of scouts. Sickels again:
Reports on his secondary pitches are mixed. On the right day he’ll show a plus slider and a solid-average change-up, and he’s never had trouble throwing his pitches for strikes. His delivery has some sweep that crosses up right-handed hitters and adds deception to his arsenal. Makeup is another positive and he’s held up well to a college starter’s workload.
There is the faintest hint of drop-and-drive to Houck’s delivery, but his unconventional mechanics haven’t resulted in the same iffy command we see out of most hard-throwing prospects. The Good Phight went into more detail in March.
We'll get to video shortly, but I'll discuss broadly Houck's mechanics. Houck is, as said above, 6'5". That should result in great downward plane on his pitches, but Houck negates some of his height in his delivery mechanics. He has a bit of a drop and drive delivery with a low 3/4 arm slot. His control is advanced enough that I think you'd have to be a verifiable crazy person to want to tweak that to get better plane. I think his stuff is good enough to ignore this flaw, though I'm curious if it may be part of what has kept his K rate a little lower than his stuff would seem to suggest (not that a roughly 9 K/9 IP is bad).
A recent drop in Houck’s fastball velocity is a bit of a concern, but not one that has pushed the Tigers away in the past. They selected righthander Kyle Funkhouser out of Louisville in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, and he has dominated competition at Single-A West Michigan so far this season.
Like Funkhouser, Houck may ultimately become a draft day steal. According to Sickels, Houck was a potential top 10 pick as recently as January. He is the No. 17 prospect in this year’s draft according to Baseball America, while MLB.com has him ranked 18th.