University of Missouri

Red Sox nab Mizzou right-hander Tanner Houck in the first round

Missouri’s Tanner Houck pitched against Alabama during the first inning of a game at the Southeastern Conference college baseball tournament at the Hoover Met, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Hoover, Ala.
Missouri’s Tanner Houck pitched against Alabama during the first inning of a game at the Southeastern Conference college baseball tournament at the Hoover Met, Thursday, May 21, 2015, in Hoover, Ala. AP

Three years ago, Missouri junior Tanner Houck gambled on himself.

After being drafted in the 12th round by the Toronto Blue Jays, he turned down the chance to turn pro and instead joined the Tigers’ staff, emerging as its ace during three seasons in Columbia.

Houck’s dream came full circle Monday when he was selected by the Boston Red Sox with the No. 24 overall pick in the first round — 330 spots higher than the last time he was draft-eligible in 2014.

Houck, a 6-foot-5, 218-pound native of Collinsville, Ill., is blessed with one of the best fastballs in the draft. It regularly sits at 92-96 mph with heavy sinking action and peaks at 98 mph.

Houck, 20, joins fellow right-handers Kyle Gibson (No. 22 by the Twins in 2009), Aaron Crow (No. 12 by the Royals in 2009) and Max Scherzer (No. 11 by the Diamondbacks in 2006) as Mizzou’s fourth first-round pick during the common draft era in program history.

Houck, who finished 17-18 in 44 career starts with a 3.26 ERA and .220 opponents’ batting average during his career at Mizzou, is a sturdy strike-thrower and also features a slider and changeup.

He struck out 292 batters, which ranks fourth in Tigers history, while allowing only 248 hits and 63 walks in 300 2/3 innings, which ranks seventh in program history.

Houck’s best season came in 2016 when he posted a 2.99 ERA and fanned 106 batters in 105 1/3 innings, scattering 82 hits and only 27 walks.

Opponents hit a paltry .209 against Houck during his sophomore year, which included his only two career shutouts.

This spring, Houck finished 4-7, but he boasted a 3.33 ERA and again had more strikeouts than innings pitched.

Houck, who showed his durability by tossing three complete games each of the last two seasons, racked up 95 strikeouts against 24 walks in 94 2/3 innings.

He’ll need to refine his three-quarters delivery and develop his secondary pitches, but that fastball gives him immense value as a bullpen arm even if he doesn’t pan out as a starter.

According to Major League Baseball, Houck’s selection has a slot value of approximately $2.6 million.

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer

  Comments