Three years ago, the Red Sox used their top draft pick on a college pitcher who needed work, and they saw that as a good thing, because “needed” was a strong word.

Tanner Houck had proven himself in the NCAA’s toughest conference. He’d been a three-year starter at the University of Missouri with a good strikeout rate, a low walk rate, and a 3.26 ERA that was all the more impressive because he did it against SEC competition. USA Baseball had twice put him on its collegiate national team and once awarded him International Performance of the Year after he threw four perfect innings against Cuba.

If Houck could do all that with two pitches and a funky delivery, what might he become if the Red Sox could teach him another offspeed pitch, maybe tweak his mechanics, and put his big frame to work on a four-seam fastball?

“We felt that he was pretty rare in that he was a proven college pitcher at the highest level, and we felt there was…





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