SoxProspects News

June 1, 2020 at 12:28 PM

Scouting Report Updates: Houck, Chatham could fill meaningful roles


The latest SoxProspects scouting report update shines a light on two recent early-round draft picks—2017 first-rounder Tanner Houck and 2016 second-rounder CJ Chatham. Both players have steadily improved and progressed through the organization since signing, and both project to fill meaningful roles on the big league squad in the near future, as expounded upon within their scouting reports.

SoxProspects.com scouting reports are written by our scouting report team, led by Director of Scouting Ian Cundall.

Tanner Houck, Right-handed pitcher

Physical Description: Tall, athletic pitcher's frame. Type of frame you look for in a pitcher. Minimal projection left.

Mechanics: Throws from a low three-quarters arm slot. Starts on the first base side of the rubber. Unique delivery with a lot of effort, but it works for him. Steps toward third base and finishes with back leg continuing in that direction. Used to step even more towards third and then swing back leg around toward first base, coming across his body with a lot of east-west movement, but has worked on staying squarer to the plate with very obvious improvements. Very quick arm. Long arm action including elbow climb in the back and high leg kick. Mechanics are very tough on right-handed hitters.

Fastball:
92-95 mph. Tops out at 98 mph. In college, he worked almost exclusively off a two-seam fastball regarded as among the best in the 2017 draft. In 2018, organization attempted to work with Houck to instead rely primarily on a four-seam fastball, based in part on Trackman data, but he struggled in the first half of the year and returned midseason to primarily throwing the two-seam while mixing in the four-seam more often. Two-seam shows arm-side run and heavy sink down in the zone. Four-seam routinely in the 95-97 mph range, but pitch is straight and hit hard when in the zone. Fringe-average fastball command profile. Potential above-average pitch. May add a cutter eventually.

Slider:
83-86 mph. Has returned to throwing the sweepy, frisbee-like, 10-to-4 slider he used in college and after being drafted. Tried out a spike curveball grip during the first half of the 2018 season, but because of his arm angle, the pitch wasn't a good fit. Has shown great confidence in his slider, willing to throw it to both right- and left-handed hitters. Can locate in and out of the zone, has bat-missing potential. Pitch is very tough on right-handed hitters. Potential plus offering.

Changeup:
86-88 mph. Inconsistent pitch, has changed his grip on the pitch as a professional. Began using circle grip in 2019. Pitch will flash drop and deceptive arm speed, but he has trouble turning the pitch over and it often is firm and straight. Still a work in progress. Clear third pitch. Potential fringe-average offering with significant refinement.

Career Notes: Drafted by Toronto out of high school but did not sign. Pitched for Team USA collegiate national team in 2015 and 2016. After signing, inspired by his adopted sister (as well as his father and stepfather, who were both adopted), created Tanner Houck’s Pitch for Adoption, an organization through which he donates money to charitable causes for each strikeout. The Red Sox development plan after drafting Houck included an overhaul of his arsenal and mechanics in an effort to increase his chances of staying in the rotation. Experimented with primarily throwing a four-seam fastball in early 2018 that he now will mix in with the two-seam and has changed grips on his breaking ball and changeup. Missed last few weeks of 2018 season with chest/back/spine/ribcage inflammation. Participated in 2018 Fall Instructional League. Moved to the bullpen in July 2019 shortly before promotion to Triple-A, and appeared primed for a potential MLB call-up down the stretch if Boston had remained in the playoff race. Then moved back into the rotation in the Arizona Fall League and was reportedly set to begin 2020 in the Pawtucket rotation. Pitched for Team USA in the 2019 Premier12 Tournament.

Summation:
Potential late-inning reliever, with a chance to develop into a back-end starter if he can develop another secondary pitch to complement his slider and refine his fastball command. Could also succeed in a multi-inning relief role. Will struggle to turn over the lineup with current pitch mix and mechanics. Arm slot and fastball-slider combination make him extremely difficult on right-handers, but command profile and same arm slot give him trouble against left-handed hitters. Has the size and demeanor you look for in a pitcher; able to bear down when necessary. Fastball and slider project as at least above-average pitches. Changeup lags behind, but has shown potential against left-handed hitters, which will be vital to chances stick in the starting rotation given his low arm slot.

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CJ Chatham, Shortstop

Physical Description: Good frame. Larger than a typical middle infielder. Athletic. Long limbs, high waist. Some projection remaining in his lower half. Looks listed height and weight.

Hit:
Starts in a slightly open stance. Used to stand vertical, but has crouched a bit in his stance recently, perhaps to attempt to create more upward plane. Slight trunk twist in load. Level swing with quick hands. Good separation in swing. Has consistently hit for high averages throughout his minor league career. Slightly above-average bat speed. Inconsistent swing path. Long limbs, can struggle to stay inside the ball at times. Has some trouble with spin. Approach is on the aggressive side; likes to put the ball in play and attack early in the count. Doesn't walk much. Potential fringe-average hit tool.

Power:
Will show average raw power in batting practice, but it doesn't carry over into games, where he utilizes a line drive approach. Projects to have below-average game power, capable of hitting 10 or so home runs a year with 20-plus doubles at his peak if given a full season of at-bats. Power is mostly to the pull side.

Run:
Fringe-average speed. Runs stiff. Not a threat to steal bases, but can go first to third on a single once he gets moving.

Field:
Solid instincts and feel for shortstop. Quick first step and long strides allow him to cover ground quickly to both sides and when charging the ball. Solid footwork and soft hands. Smooth fielder. Projects as a solid-average-to-better defender and should be able to stick at shortstop long-term. Began getting occasional time at second base in mid-2019 to expand his versatility, and got most of his playing time in the Arizona Fall League at the position in addition to emergency starts at third base and left field out of necessity.

Arm: Plus arm. Able to make all the throws from shortstop when healthy. Has had recurring injury issues with his right shoulder that have at times robbed him of sufficient arm strength for the position.

Career Notes:
Played travel baseball in high school with Red Sox draftees Nick Longhi and Shaun Anderson. Reached 96 mph as his high school team’s closer, garnering the interest of MLB clubs including the Red Sox. Initially committed to Florida Atlantic as a left fielder, but played third base as a freshman before moving to shortstop. Missed about a month after signing when a post-draft physical revealed he had broken his thumb during the NCAA Regionals. Attended 2016 and 2018 Fall Instructional League. Missed almost the entire 2017 season due to a hamstring injury suffered late in spring training that recurred multiple times during comeback attempts. Missed the start of the 2018 season with a hamstring injury. Received non-roster invitation to major league spring training in 2019. Has also dealt with recurring right shoulder issues, including in spring training 2020. Led Eastern League in batting average in 2019.

Summation:
Projects as an up-and-down major league depth player with the ceiling of a solid utility player carried by his defense. Won't stand out in any particular category, but won't hurt a team either. Type of player where the sum of the parts make the player. Not flashy, but is a consistent, professional performer. Bigger than the average shortstop, but should be able to stick at the position long-term. Potential to play at least average defense at short with a plus arm and hit in the .260-.280 range with 10 or so home runs.

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Kris Jackson, Right-handed pitcher

Physical Description: Undersized, average frame. No remaining projection.

Mechanics:
Throws side-arm from the first base side. Long arm action, then slings the ball. Effort in delivery. Delivery is deceptive to right-handed hitters.

Fastball:
89-91 mph. Pitch shows sink and run. Does a good job keeping the ball down in the zone. Throws strikes. Designed to generate weak contact. Pitch will struggle to miss bats against more advanced hitters. Potential fringe-average offering.

Slider:
76-78 mph. Slurvy, long breaking ball. Pitch tends to roll to the plate. Shape varies at times. Typically has long, horizontal movement. Sweepy and tough for righties to pick up, but runs right into the barrel of left-handed hitters. Potential fringe-average pitch.

Changeup:
Typically 81-83 mph. Some drop. Throws sparingly, but incorporated the pitch more in 2019. Has thrown pitch a bit harder at 85-86, but at that speed, pitch lacks separation from fastball and is less effective.

Career Notes:
Played for two years at Chemeketa Community College before transferring to NAIA Corban University for his final two seasons.

Summation:
Low minors relief depth arm. Ceiling of becoming a solid organizational player if he throws strikes and keeps the ball down consistently. Limited ceiling, but type of player every organization needs to fill out their minor league bullpens.

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Everlouis Lozada, Second baseman

Physical Description: Athletic, undersized frame with some remaining projection. Looks listed height and weight.

Hit: Open stance. Line-drive oriented swing. Swing is more fluid from the left side of the plate. Has particularly struggled hitting right-handed against left-handed pitchers. May be a candidate to stop switch-hitting and focus on hitting left-handed.

Power: Limited power potential in part due to his height. Could develop below-average power with improvements to hit tool.

Speed: Average speed, but not a base-stealing threat. Has lost speed as he has filled out.

Field: Fluid actions in the field. Soft hands, confident charging the ball. General sloppiness led to errors early in his career, but has worked to clean that up. Solid defensive profile long-term if he can improve consistency and focus. Organization attempted to get him exposure to third base and, to a lesser degree, shortstop earlier in his career, but after significant defensive struggles on the left side in 2018 (.805 fielding percentage at third, .882 at short), now appears to have settled in as a second base-only defender.

Arm: Average arm strength. Plenty of arm for second base.

Career Notes: After strong DSL and GCL campaigns in his first two seasons made him a sleeper to watch entering 2018, he struggled mightily both at the plate and in the field (30 errors) in an aggressive assignment to Greenville. Spent the first two months of 2019 in extended spring training. Participated in the Fall Instructional League in 2018 and 2019.

Summation: Potential high minors depth option. Will have to hit more and develop physically to get out of the low minors.

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Elih Marrero, Catcher

Physical Description: Small, stocky frame. Filled out. Minimal projection in body.

Hit:
Starts square and utilizes a leg lift timing device. Fringy bat speed. Has some contact skills. Puts the ball in play, but doesn’t square it up. Has shown the tendency to pull off the ball, especially pitches outside. Will take a walk at times, but on the aggressive side. Potential well below-average hit tool.

Power:
No power potential. Lacks strength and swing lacks lift. Gap power at best.

Run:
Below-average speed. Not a part of his game.

Field:
Average receiving skills. Athletic for the position. Moves well behind the plate. Does a good job getting down and blocking balls in the dirt. Potential above-average defensive profile.

Arm:
Above-average arm strength. Quick release. Strong, accurate arm.

Career Notes:
Son of 10-year MLB veteran catcher Eli Marrero. Spent two seasons at Mississippi State. Didn’t play much during sophomore year due to off-field issues, then transferred to St. Thomas University. Participated in the Fall Instructional League in 2018 and 2019. Suspended for 50 games entering the 2020 season due to a positive test for amphetamines.

Summation:
Potential minor league depth catcher. Best tools are on the defensive side. Lacks offensive ability to stick as a starter in the high minors. Could carve out a role as a back-up type who can move between levels as needed when a team has a roster spot it needs to fill for a stretch. Given on-field profile and past off-field issues, he is not the kind of player who could afford to get suspended like he did in 2020.

This round of scouting report updates also includes recently released players Robbie Baker, Korby Batesole, Alex Demchak, Chris Machamer, and Samuel Miranda.

Photo Credit: Tanner Houck and CJ Chatham by Kelly O'Connor
 
Mark Hanoian is the Scouting Report Manager for SoxProspects.com.


 
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