Tanner Houck, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher from Collinsville, was taken No. 24 overall by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of Major League Baseball amateur draft Monday.
The pick made amends for what Houck thought was a miscalculated slight three years ago.
In 2014, following a senior season at Collinsville High School in which he struck out 113 batters in just 65 innings, Houck was taken in the 12th round, no. 354 overall, by the Toronto Blue Jays. He chose the University of Missouri and college baseball instead, insulted that major league teams thought there were 353 players better than him.
On the inside of his left wrist, Houck got a tattoo which reads "RD12/PK354/BLUEJAYS'14." It's the motivation he would use to drive up his stock the next time he'd be eligible as a first-year player.
Pete Trapp, the head coach at Collinsville, was with Houck and his family at a private draft party. He said with Monday’s pick, all has been forgiven.
“Right now, I think Tanner is just excited about moving on to this next stage of his life,” Trapp said. “He's worked his butt off to get to this stage. There’s just a lot of hugs and a lot of emotion.”
As a freshman at Mizzou, Houck went 8-5 with a 3.49 ERA with 91 strikeouts in 101 innings. He went on to be the first Missouri player to earn a spot on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.
Noting that some sites had already projected Houck as a top 10 pick, Missouri coach Steve Bieser knew his ace would not be returning for his senior season. Houck entered the draft rated by Baseball America as the nation's 22nd-best prospect.
"When our season ends, he’ll be drafted and … won’t be back for another season," Bieser told the Kansas City Star.
This spring, Houck was 4-7 with a 3.33 ERA in 14 starts and 94 2/3 innings, with 24 walks and 95 strikeouts. He limited hitters to a .220 average and allowed just five home runs.
Even in starts, Houck's fastball routinely hits the mid-90s and has sinking movement that's especially effective against right-handed batters. He also has a changeup and slider. Jason Wood, Houck's agent and a Granite City native, said his 6-foot-5, 218-pound client's size and unconventional cross-body delivery translate well to the professional game.
Nine pitchers were drafted ahead of Houck Monday. Based on recent history, he’ll command a signing bonus between about $2.2 million to $3.9 million.
“Coming in, everybody knew he was going to go in the first round, so it was really pretty relaxed,” Trapp said. “The only person biting their nails was Tanner’s mom, but she’s been nervous since he was a freshman.”
With the first two rounds completed Monday, the draft continues with the third through 10th rounds Tuesday and concludes Wednesday with the 11th through 40th rounds.
Arkansas first baseman Chad Spanberger, a graduate of Granite City High School and the 163rd-best prospect according to Baseball America, is a potential Tuesday pick. Zach Haake, a 6-5, 190-pound right-handed pitcher from Mater Dei, also could hear his name called.
Others from the metro-east who could be selected before the draft ends Wednesday include:
▪ Josh Fleming, a 6-foot, 180-pound left-hander from Columbia High School and Division III Webster University.
▪ Brady Schanuel, a pitcher from Belleville East who was drafted in the 36th round last year by the Oakland A's. He pitched last season at Parkland College in Champaign and currently is committed to the University of Iowa.
▪ Eric Kaiser, a 6-foot-4 right-hander from Waterloo. His current intent is to attend Vanderbilt this fall.
▪ Adam Bauer, a Belleville West graduate at Southwestern Illinois College.
▪ Aaron Meyer, a Belleville West graduate and Missouri State University infielder.
▪ Wes Degener, an outfielder from Gibault who batted. 408 at Lindenwood University in St. Charles
▪ Cody Siebenberger, an outfielder from Freeburg who has since played at Jefferson College and committed to Missouri.
Cardinals’ long clock
The St. Louis Cardinals did not have a pick in the first two rounds Monday.
The Chicago Cubs received a compensatory pick at No. 30 for the Cardinals’ free agent signing of outfielder Dexter Fowler. St. Louis lost its second-round pick as part of the sanctions levied against it for the hacking of the Houston Astros player development data base.
The Cardinals will make their first draft choice with the 94th overall pick in the third round Tuesday.