Former GM Ed Wade and former scouting director Bobby Heck were tasked with replenishing a depleted farm system, and with an owner that was hesitant to “rebuild” building through the draft became a focus point. Though there were several reoccurring trends that were evident in Wade and Heck’s drafts, one of the more recognizable patterns was the duo’s propensity to draft a high upside and athletic high school pitcher early in the draft. First there was Jordan Lyles, then there was Tanner Bushue, after him came Mike Foltynewicz, and last but not least we have Adrian Houser who was taken in the 2nd round of the 2011 Amateur Draft.
Prior to the 2011 draft the major criticisms of Houser were mostly mechanical. Most publications stated that he needed to do a better job of maintaining his delivery, and that his stride was short which caused him to not use the lower half of his body as much as he should. He was more than likely sent to extended spring training this season to work on ironing out some of these issues. He was assigned to the Greeneville Astros where he had also spent some time last season after being drafted.
Houser made a total of 11 starts for Greeneville and pitched a total of 58 innings. His ERA was a mediocre 4.03, but he posted a more impressive FIP of 3.01. Due to some of the mechanical inconsistencies control was an issue in short-season ball for Houser last season. He averaged 4.7 walks per nine innings last season in 48 innings pitched. He did show improvement in that area when compared to last season as he was able to lower his walk rate to 3.57 BB/9 this season. That walk rate was still slightly higher than the Appalachian League average of 3.41 BB/9, but it was an improvement. His WHIP decreased from 1.54 last season to 1.31 this season.
Heading into his draft year we knew that Houser threw a fastball and a curveball/slider with a developing changeup. It appears that his fastball may be have some sink to it as he posted a 57.7% groundball rate this season which was an improvement from the 47.3% mark of the previous season. He also almost averaged a strikeout per inning by posting an 8.38 K/9 this season. Opponents hit .258/.354/.351 against him this season, and he only allowed one homerun in his 58 innings pitched. Over his career he has shown reverse splits against lefties and righties as he has been more effective against left-handed hitting this far. In his 160 plate appearances against lefties hitters have hit just .204/.314/.292 while right-handed hitters have hit .280/.352/.371 in 300 plate appearances against him.
Houser’s best start of the season came on 6/29 against the Danville Braves (36-28) where he went six innings and allowed no runs, no walks, three hits, and struck out eight batters. His next start came against the Johnson City Cardinals (39-27) and was almost equally as impressive. Houser went seven innings, which was his longest outing of the season, and did not allow a run, walked two, allowed four hits, while striking out six batters. His worst start of the season came on 8/6 against the Johnson City Cardinals. In this start he only lasted 4.1 innings and allowed eight earned runs on eight hits, the only homerun of the season he allowed, two walks, and only recorded three strikeouts.
Hopefully Houser can continue to build on his success this season and continue to improve his mechanics and his location. It seems likely that he would get the chance to start in Quad Cities next season, but there is also several other guys that you could say the same thing about for next season which is a good thing. At just 19-years old he’s still young and possesses plenty of upside. The increase in his groundball percentage is a promising sign and hopefully he can continue to cut down on the walks as he gains more consistency.