Questions about whether Houck fits best long term as a starter or reliever have persisted since his college days at Missouri. Scouts still are split, though he has helped his case some by cutting into his walk rate and making strides with a changeup in 2019. His stuff has backed up a tick—sitting in the 92-to-93 mph range and touching 95-97 mph with less frequency than he has in the past—but the pitchability has improved and he’s still getting tons of outs on the ground. Houck’s mid-80s breaking ball looks like a deep slider at its best, though he still battles a low three-quarters slot and can drop under it at times.
Houck just turned 23 in late June, so while he isn’t ultra-projectable past this point, there’s still at least some reason to think certain tweaks can be made. His complex delivery offers quality deception, but also is what impedes his consistency in terms of breaking stuff and command. Houck’s 6-foot-5 frame and mechanics could simply just be the type that take more time to grow in to, leaving some chance to finish a #4 starter in the best case scenario. I saw interesting leverage relief upside in my look last year, and still feel Houck likely brings most impact in a multi-inning ‘pen role.