Local prospects await call of major league ball

News-DemocratJune 4, 2014 

As two of the top high school baseball prospects in Illinois, Collinsville High pitcher Tanner Houck and Granite City High catcher-infielder Chad Spanberger both could have some intriguing options this week.

Both already have high-level college scholarships, with Houck headed to Missouri and Spanberger to Arkansas. Both also will play in the PNC Bank High School Baseball Showcase June 12 for the region's top seniors at Busch Stadium

Both also could be considered potential top-10 round draft picks when Major League Baseball holds its annual draft beginning Thursday. Several scouting web sites have Houck projected anywhere from a fourth- to eighth-round pick.

The 6-foot-5 Houck has seen scouts at the majority of his games this spring and began getting plenty of interest even as a junior. His fastball routinely reaches the low 90-mph range and has been as high as 93 mph and he also features a slider with good movement.

That may or may not get him drafted high enough to make the choice between college and professional baseball a tough one. But being 6-5 and throwing that hard are two impressive natural assets that rank heavily in his favor.

"I think the draft possibilities are high, but it's a little bit different than signing with a college," Houck said. "You don't get to pick what team and what round, or what number you get picked.

"I've trained all offseason. I've showed them the best I've got every game this season, so hopefully it works out within those first 10 rounds."

Houck was 6-3 this spring with a 1.72 ERA, allowing only 16 earned runs in 11 starts and 12 appearances. He also struck out a staggering 113 batters in just 65 innings while walking only 17.

An accomplished hitter and four-year varsity starter, Spanberger hit .417 this spring with eight doubles, four triples, four home runs and 27 RBIs. He also scored 40 runs and walked 37 times in 137 plate appearances.

"If I don't get drafted I've got a great place to go with Arkansas," Spanberger said. "If I get drafted, that's even better."

Both Houck and Spanberger had plenty of interest from major league teams. They filled out questionnaires, hosted home visits with scouts and knew they were working under the all-seeing eyes of scouts or high-ranking team officials most of the time.

Both players also said it's tough to gauge the interest level of teams looking to draft them.

"I don't know, they're really hard to read sometimes," Spanberger said. "They asked if I can play outfield, first base or the corners (first and third)."

Spanberger caught most of the season, but also played nearly a fourth of the time at shortstop.

"Shortstop gets you excited because it's fun to play other places and learn other parts of the game," said Spanberger. "At the beginning it was a little rough, but toward the middle and end I started to hit better.

"I got myself out early swinging at bad pitches, I think that was my problem at the beginning. I was too excited to hit."

Last year major league teams spent $219 million on signing bonuses for draft picks, according to Baseball America.

Under the latest collective bargaining agreement, there are slotted money values for players chosen in the first 10 rounds. That ranges from $7.9 million for the Houston Astros first-round pick to $137,600 for the Cardinals choosing in the final spot in the 10th round.

Players chosen after the 10th round may not receive a bonus of more than $100,000. Any bonus money above that amount is deducted from the team's total pool money it can spend in the draft.

Among the other area players with draft potential this season are Florida State left-hander Bryant Holtmann from Central High, Southern Illinois University Carbondale first baseman Cody Daily (Granite City), Penn catcher Austin Bossart (O'Fallon), University of Tampa catcher Nick Tindall (O'Fallon) and Lindenwood-St. Charles slugger Michael Failoni (Edwardsville).

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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