With the Red Sox mired in the American League cellar thanks to a 16-31 record that ranks as the second-worst in baseball, there's no bad time to get a jump start on the 2021 season.
And that means getting a look at some of the team's prospects -- including Tanner Houck. The team's first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft will be called up and will make his major league debut Tuesday night when he starts against the Marlins.
Speculation about Houck's potential debut was sparked earlier this week when the right-hander was added to the Red Sox taxi squad, the group of extra players traveling with the team due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Drafted with the 24th overall pick three years ago, Houck is a 6-foot-5 right-hander who split his time between Portland and Pawtucket last season. Houck went 8-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 17 games with the Sea Dogs, where he was primarily used as a starter, then had a 0-0 record and 3.24 ERA in 16 appearances (two starts) with the PawSox.
Houck struck out 107 in 107.2 innings last season, but had issues with his control, walking 46 -- which works out to 3.8 walks per 9 innings. He ranks 10th on MLB Pipeline's ranking of Red Sox prospects.
From MLB.com: Houck thrives by pitching off his sinker and slider and by confounding right-handers with his low three-quarters crossfire delivery. His two-seam fastball ranges from 92-96 mph with heavy sink and bore, while his low-80s slider sweeps across the strike zone. He tried using a four-seamer and a curveball from a higher slot at the beginning of his first pro season, but it cost him command and deception.
For a team that needs as much pitching help as it can get, the Red Sox hope that Houck can make a positive impression in the majors, much like fellow recent call-up Bobby Dalbec, whose streak of consecutive games with a home run was snapped Friday at five.