Prospect Countdown #38 : Zach Houchins

Top 100 Los Angeles Angels' Prospects Countdown, #38 : Third Baseman, Zach Houchins (photo : Travis Berg)

Zach Houchins, Third Baseman

HT : 6'2
WT : 210
DOB : September 16, 1992 (23), Wilson, North Carolina
Throws : Right
Bats : Right
School : East Carolina University (Greenville, NC)
Acquired : Drafted in 13th Round of 2014 MLB Draft
Last Year's Ranking : #57


Controversy swarmed Zach Houchins during his younger years for comments he made on social media. His makeup was questioned, and it became a reward for the Los Angeles Angels when they found him as a steal in the 13th round of the 2014 Draft. His makeup is, and never was, a problem, and neither was his talent as a baseball player. The Angels now reap the rewards of having a top notch talent who is working his way through the system.


SCOUTING REPORT:

Houchins has a slightly robotic swing that works for consistent mechanics and bat plane, but will need to free up to play out at the upper levels. He has a wide stance and loads heavily with his front leg, changing his load to his back leg late in his swing, and using his strong upper body to create torque. He has good bat speed which allows power, as well as a snapping motion in his swing.

Houchins has a level swing plane that creates a high amount of line drives. As he becomes a little more free in his upper body and uses more of his entire frame in his swing, more power will come. With that said, Houchins is one of, if not the premier, power bat from the right-side in the Angels organization. His power potential will spike when he swings through the ball more, which should make him a more complete hitter as well.

The comfort level at the plate for Houchins is near unmatched in the Angels organization. He has an advanced approach, and has taken that into professional ball and used it a a key asset. As he faced more advanced pitching you could see his aggressive style pick up to pick up minor mistakes off the corners. Though the walk rates were limited, Houchins rarely struck out due to his swing early approach.

On the base paths, Houchins is below-average in speed, but is a wise base runner. This comes from natural baseball knowledge and IQ, as well as good athleticism which allows him to take the extra stride when necessary. It's unlikely he'll ever be a threat to steal many bases.

In the field, Houchins is a true talent. He has a strong and accurate arm from the left side of the infield, and suits best as a third baseman. Growing up a soccer player, his footwork is natural and easy to both sides, allowing him to range well, primarily to his left side. He has a good arm and is best when allowing the game to come to him in the field.

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Scouting Report from Taylor Blake Ward - Senior Publisher for Scout.com


STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN:

Houchins was a three-letter winner at Wilson Hunt High School, and highlighted his junior and senior season with Big-East All-Conference selections and 3A North Carolina All-State honors as a senior. During his junior year, Houchins hit .350, following a .470 season with four home runs. In his final prep season, Houchins hit .537 with six home runs, 14 doubles, 31 RBI and 37 runs scored helping him to Big-East Player of the Year honors. Houchins began his senior season with a 17-game hit-streak, and had 18 multi-hit games, 12 multi-RBI games and 12 multi-run games.

After a strong prep career, Houchins opted for Louisburg College where he was the center piece of talent, seeing a draft pick after his freshman year (15th Round, Washington). That freshman year saw a .349 average, four home runs, 35 RBI, 27 runs scored, 14 doubles and seven stolen bases. He earned Second-Teal All-Regional honors, and was named the 74th best Junior College player by Baseball America. During that freshman year, he recorded 19 multi-hit games with 10 multi-RBI games. Houchins followed his freshman year with an even better sophomore year where he hit .394 with 16 home runs, 59 RBI, 68 runs scored, 20 doubles and a .734 slugging percentage.

In his first year at ECU, Houchins was among team and league leaders in nearly every offensive statistic. Houchins led the Pirates in doubles (18), triples (2), sac flies (6) and multi-RBI games (12). He also finished second in batting average (.317), home runs (5), RBI (42), and runs scored (34). In the league, Houchins finished second in doubles, third in slugging percentage (.513), sixth in RBI and ninth in home runs. Houchins finished the season with a 18-game on-base streak and held a 13-game hit-streak where he hit .471 with nine doubles and 15 RBI. Houchins was named a Second-Team All-Conference USA selection.

Houchins led the Pirates offensively in his final collegiate season, leading the team with a .347 batting average (4th best in conference), .398 on-base percentage (fifth best), and .450 slugging percentage (eighth). He also led the team and Conference-USA in hits, becoming the third in ECU history to do so, along with 27 multi-hit games and six multi-RBI games. Houchins played in all ECU games, and collected hits in 47 of 59, while scoring in 21. He finished the year with a 12-game on-base streak and four-game hit-streak. He was named a First-Team All-Conference USA selection and Williams Jungle Hitter of the Year.

Houchins kicked off his professional career with a bang, batting .388/.442/.626 with six home runs, 12 doubles and 39 RBI and runs scored in 36 games. In his final 19 games in Rookie Ball, Houchins hit .462 with a 1.225 OPS, while collecting 12 multi-hit games, six in a row to begin the 19-game stretch. He finished the year in Low-A, where he hit just .200 with a .513 OPS.

Last season, Houchins put together another strong season. Over the course of the year in Low-A, Houchins hit .253/.313/.401 with 27 doubles, 69 runs scored and 66 RBI. His 14 home runs were most in the organization from right-handed hitters. His best stretch of the season came over his final 45 games where he hit .287 with a .770 OPS, collecting hits 34, including 11 multi-hit games and never seeing a hitless streak of more than three games.

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EXPECTED FUTURE:

After being an offensive leader in most categories in Low-A during 2015, a promotion to High-A is almost guaranteed for Houchins come 2016. His power numbers should increase even more in the hitter friendly league, possibly near 20 or more home runs over the entire season, making him a prime candidate to be a breakout prospect.

The power from the right-side and strong defensive tools lean towards seeing Houchins as a future Major League talent, and starter. Pending his development and progress at the upper levels of the minors should lift Houchins in the depth charts and prove to make him noticeable by the big club. His current ETA to the Majors is set for 2018 to 2019 as a 25-year-old.



For more updates on the Los Angeles Angels, their prospects, and our Top 100 Prospects Countdown, follow us on Twitter, @AngelsOnScout. Keep up with our countdown on Twitter with the hashtag, #LAATop100Prospects.

This article was published by Taylor Blake Ward, who serves as a Senior Publisher for Scout.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.



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