By John Layton and Roger Starkey
What a way to celebrate a graduation party. Tanner Houck, the 17-year-old ace of the Collinsville High School pitching staff was celebrating his high school graduation party when he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday.
Getting drafted fulfilled a dream he’s had since before he was even able to spell high school.
“I remember being a 3-year-old kid, running around in the yard telling everyone that I was going to play in the major leagues one day,” Houck said.
After Saturday, he is one step closer. The Blue Jays selected Houck in the 12th round, with the 354th overall pick, at the same time Houck’s hometown Cardinals were playing the team that drafted him.
“If the Cardinals had drafted me, it would have been more fun for everyone else, but I’m happy to be picked by the Blue Jays. How many people can say they were drafted out of high school?” Houck said.
Getting drafted by Toronto was not a surprise for Houck. The team had shown great interest in him throughout the spring, even sending their top national scout to Collinsville to watch him pitch. The Blue Jays are devoted to improving their organization, Houck said.
Houck said he would have like to have been drafted higher, perhaps in the top five rounds, but is not disappointed. No decision has been made, yet, if he will sign with Toronto, Houck said. His advisor, Jason Wood, will begin negotiating with the Blue Jays in the coming days, Houck said. If the sides cannot reach an agreement, he is happy with option B.
“If it doesn’t work out, I will just go to Mizzou for three years and we’ll do it again,” Houck said.
College players are eligible for the draft after their third year.
Houck is the first player to be drafted out of CHS since Kenneth Lutz was drafted by the Reds in the fourth round of the 1999 draft, according to The Baseball Almanac. Lutz played three minor league seasons, Baseball Reference.com notes.
This season for the Kahoks, Houck went 6-3 with an ERA of 1.72, 113 strikeouts and just 17 walks through 65 innings pitched.
MLB.com listed the University of Missouri recruit at No. 132 in its top 200 prospects, saying his fastball, which reaches 93 mph at times already, figures to gain velocity as he gets stronger.
According to MLB.com, Houck’s frame and high-effort delivery have drawn comparisons to Detroit Tigers’ pitcher and Mizzou alum Max Scherzer, and his long arm action and high elbow brings to mind the Cleveland Indians’ Justin Masterson.
While the website rates his fastball above average, his split-changeup and slider are rated average, though it is noted these secondary pitches show promise. At one CHS game this season, a scout noted that when his changeup was working, the opponents did not stand a chance.
Mizzou Head Coach Tim Jamieson told MUTigers.com that Houck is one of the best high school pitchers in the area.
“He’s another tall lanky projectable type pitcher that attacks and commands the strike zone with outstanding stuff,” Jamieson said. “He’s another player that is going to have the chance to pitch right away for us.”
If he’ll pitch right away for Mizzou or an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays will be determined in the coming days.