6'4" 185 lbs. DOB: 12/15/84
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
Bats: Left | Throws: Left
Acquired: 2003 Draft, 2nd Round, 38th Overall
Taken in the 2nd round of a Sarasota high school, Houser's a lanky lefty whose pro career has been slowed by injuries and a 2007 test for a banned substance.
After being added to the 40-man roster last off-season(and in the process having his suspension cut short of the 50-games via a loophole), Houser was back in Montgomery in 2008, where he got off to a hot start: just four earned runs allowed in his first 5 starts. He posted a respectable 3.42 ERA in May despite worrisome rates(15 walks-15 strikeouts) and his luck ran out in June, where he allowed 14 runs in 25 innings. Houser was again bothered by injuries late in 2008, this time his knee, totalling 15.1 innings from July onward.
His final stat line: 3-3, 2.86 ERA, 6.6 H/9, 3.8 BB/9, 7.3 K/9. The low hit rate is probably one (very important) component of the low ERA, and I'd project that to return to his career rate of near 8 per 9 innings in 2009, with the ERA taking a subsequent hit. His walk rate has actually declined each of the past four seasons, and 3.8 was his career high in that category. One other thing to take note of is his sometimes extreme flyball tendencies: for his career, he maintains just a 37% groundball rate.
At his best, Houser mixes in two curveballs and a change-up with am upper-80's/low-90's fastball. Considered a projectable body a few years ago, Houser simply hasn't added the velocity to his fastball that it seemed he might. Though he hasn't suffered a major arm injury, several nagging injuries have no doubt taken their toll.
Given his performance, his injury history, and the logjam of starting pitchers ahead of him, Houser projects as a reliever. His FIP against left-handed hitters is only slightly lower than against righties(4.21 vs. 4.34), but his groundball rate is way better(47%, still not quite ideal).
Combining 2007 and 2008, Houser's thrown almost 200 innings in AA with about a 3.30 ERA. He'll be 24 and really doesn't have much left to prove at that level. He'll move up to Durham and will help fill out the Bulls' rotation. Should something happen to Brian Shouse and the Rays feel they need a lefty, and can't find a suitable option on the market, Houser could get the call. Still, it's debatable how good he'd actually be in a LOOGY role, and smart money says Houser stays with Durham until at least Septemeber, where he'd be a call-up candidate.